Sofia Cabrera, one of CAUSE's grassroots leaders, was among the nearly 30 people to address the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 4, to speak out against the “mass renovictions” at Isla Vista's CBC & The Sweeps apartments. | Credit: Courtesy S.B. Tenants Union

[Updated: Thu., Apr. 5, 2023, 9:19 a.m.]

County Supervisor Laura Capps declared that the recent eviction notices served on tenants of three apartment complex in Isla Vista is a “Code Red for me and my staff.” More importantly, she said, it constituted “Code Red” for as many as 1,000 tenants of the buildings just purchased by a Chicago-based investment company, Core Spaces. It was, she said, the largest mass eviction taking place in the entire state.

Core Spaces purchased the three apartment complexes better known as CBC & The Sweeps — with 264 combined units — on March 16 and serviced eviction notices within a matter of days. Echoing Capps’s sense of urgency was Supervisor Das Williams, who highlighted the fact that any displaced tenants would be eligible for up to $7,000 in relocation assistance from the owners.

Capps and Williams announced that the supervisors would be holding a special hearing this Thursday, April 6, to discuss the matter and explore possible legal remedies. Among the ideas pushed by the nearly 30 people who addressed the supervisors to stop “mass renovictions” is a moratorium on mass evictions.

Some of the speakers addressed the supervisors in Spanish, others in English. They were not just numbers on some flow chart, they testified; they are human beings, and their lives are being violently uprooted.

Speaking through a translator, Pedro Zamora said he and everyone in his building was evicted in 1988 for similar reasons, but after they got everybody out, the owner never renovated. Now living at CBC & the Sweeps, he has four daughters and said he didn’t know how to tell them they’d had to leave their home and their schools.

Another speaker spoke of the single mothers already struggling to keep their family under roof about to be pushed out. “This is violence,” she said.

County Counsel Rachel Van Mullen cautioned that any changes the supervisors might make to the county’s existing just-cause eviction ordinance would not be retroactive or cover the evictions already served.

The eviction process was outlined by Jennifer Smith, who leads the Legal Aid Foundation. “A notice of termination of tenancy is just the first step,” she said. After that, a landlord may file an unlawful detainer lawsuit to get a court-ordered eviction judgment. “No lawful eviction takes place until a judge rules in the landlord’s favor,” Smith emphasized. After an eviction judgment is made by the court, the County Sheriff will enforce the order through lockout, Smith concluded.

Nadia Abushanab, an advocate with SBCAN (Santa Barbara County Action Network), stated there was still time for the county to pass an urgency ordinance to protect the tenants because they haven’t yet been served with unlawful detainer notices. Abushanab later explained to the Independent that the tenants have so far received 60-day quit notices and that the actual unlawful detainer — or official eviction notice — would come next. An urgency ordinance by the county could pass with four supervisor votes and go into effect immediately, she said

The City of Santa Barbara passed an ordinance that contained elements the county could adopt for this purpose: a requirement that permits be in hand before tenants could be evicted, that early notice be given, and that the reason and scope of the work be identified for each unit.

Supervisor Williams thanked the speakers for their passion and discipline in keeping their remarks brief in describing what he termed “the savagery this is going to cause in their lives.”

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