Insult was added to injury when the property manager for Dario Pini’s West Mission Street apartments sent overdue rent notices to tenants under 60-day evictions. The property is one of seven rentals removed from Pini’s hands in a City of Santa Barbara lawsuit and placed under the care of a court-ordered receiver until hundreds of code violations are fixed. In all, among the 99 units at the rental complexes, 52 are deemed overcrowded and due for eviction. For those tenants, the Santa Barbara Foundation is stepping in with a hope to connect them with agencies that could help with housing, temporarily if necessary. But time is of the essence as the tenants under eviction must be out by July 31.
Aracely Carranza, who said she was sleepless with worry over finding another place to live, fought back when she was told she still owed $3,000 because, fortunately, she had proof of all her rental payments. The receiver, Bill Hoffman, acknowledged she was paid in full; the wrong apartment number had been on the checks, he said. Another tenant has been charged $6,000 in overdue rent, reporters learned. Only two weeks before, deputy city attorney John Doimas had said the evicted tenants were in good standing and the receiver could vouch for them to new landlords.
Carranza and her husband decided not to wait for help. Neighbors said they and their four children had moved to a “very expensive” place, and they worry it will become unaffordable for them. One neighbor, Gloria Ortiz, said, “There are no options or they’re too expensive,” when it came to housing in Santa Barbara. She may move to Lompoc because she must vacate her apartment within the month. In the meantime, she’s been juggled back and forth between her apartment and a vacant one so the receivership can stay on schedule with repairs.
Some tenants have sought help from Legal Aid, which is swamped with housing cases. The Santa Barbara Foundation, facing a lack of information on tenants’ specific needs, is planning a meeting with the Pini tenants facing eviction, Legal Aid housing specialists, and other agencies. The foundation has also partnered with SBACT (S.B. Alliance for Community Transformation), which will meet with tenants to discuss their needs in order to connect them with appropriate services. But everyone agrees, Santa Barbara’s rental market is emaciated, and options are thin.
“We learned that workforce housing was one of the biggest stressors for people living in Santa Barbara County,” the foundation’s Barbara Andersen said. It fit the foundation’s mission to focus on the crisis plaguing the Pini tenants, who, like so many in the county, “are living from paycheck to paycheck,” Andersen said, “and clearly one paycheck away from being among the most vulnerable, the homeless.”