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An exodus from university housing halls has emptied the UC Santa Barbara campus after Chancellor Henry T. Yang announced that all students who can safely leave the residence halls should do so. In the adjacent community of Isla Vista, Yang’s digital letter on March 14 raised questions from students living off campus.
The decision to vacate residence halls is one of many preventative measures Yang has taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. In other letters to the university community, Yang announced a transition to digital instruction through the end of the school year and the postponement of graduation ceremonies. Major services closed, including Davidson Library, the Recreation Center, and the Student Resource Building.
These decisions were affirmed by Governor Gavin Newsom’s “stay-at-home order” on March 19, which directs all residents of California to stay in their place of residence until further notice.
Major leasing companies in the densely populated university community of Isla Vista have echoed Newsom’s words.
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Excellence in Property Management Inc. announced that its office will be closed to the public and to residents until the stay-at-home order is lifted, stressing the importance of observing the order. The company offered tenants no option to end their leases early and provided legal documents from the Associated Students Legal Resource Center detailing the circumstances under which a lease could be prematurely terminated.
“The decision to cancel in-person classes due to the virus does not reflect the habitability of your apartments,” one of the documents read. “Tenants can disinfect their apartments, just like you would if there was a flu outbreak. Unless your apartment meets the criteria for being uninhabitable (and that is a tough standard), you will not be able to cancel your lease if your landlord does not agree.”
Other I.V. leasing companies have followed suit.
Despite the refusal to break leases by landlords, the town has slowly emptied. The spring quarter began on March 30, but with Yang urging students to stay home after their spring break travels, Isla Vista remains an unusually quiet place.
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