Isla Vista landlord faces misdemeanor charge for State Street confrontation

Warning: Article, video contain strong language

Isla Vista landlord faces misdemeanor charge for State Street confrontation

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The words of James Gelb were heard loudly and clearly at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office. 

D.A. Joyce Dudley decided to file a misdemeanor charge against Gelb of Disturbing the Peace by Offensive Language in violation of Penal Code Section 415(3). 

"It has to have those four components. One, offensive words. Two, in a public place. Three, inherently likely to produce.  Four, an immediate violent reaction," said Dudley. 

Gelb is well known in Isla Vista as the owner of Del Playa Rentals. He rents out $79 million dollars worth of properties, mostly to college students. His run-in was with Ethan Bertrand who is an elected official of the college town. The charge could force Gelb to pay up to $400 in fines, spend 90 days in jail or both. 

"We will file charges when we feel that a crime has been committed and we can prove the case to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt," said Dudley.

Gelb agreed to speak on camera last week, but changed his mind and sent a written statement. 

He is set for arraignment on December 4, 2017, in department 8 of Santa Barbara Superior Court. 

Warning: This article contains language and video some may consider offensive.

A video recording of a heated argument between an elected Isla Vista official and landlord is being investigated by the Santa Barbara Police Department and District Attorney's office. 

The video, which shows a number of expletives and homophobic slurs being yelled, was recorded on a cell phone by an unidentified person. The argument reportedly occurred on State Street on Tuesday, November 7.

To watch the video, click here

21-year-old Ethan Bertrand of the Isla Vista's Community Services District ran into James Gelb, a well-known landlord who owns many properties in Isla Vista, which he rents out to UC Santa Barbara students. 

The video is one minute and 35 seconds long. It starts with Gelb saying "Fuck you. Just go fuck yourself. It's none of your fucking business" to Bertrand. 

The young elected official tells Gelb, "Have a good night." Gelb continues to follow Bertrand down State Street. The argument escalated further after Bertrand told Gelb, "You've treated your tenants very poorly." "Fuck you asshole!" Gelb yelled back, after which, he began directing homophobic slurs to Bertrand who is an openly gay man. 

Recently, Gelb, the owner of Del Playa Rentals, put his $79 million portfolio of apartment complexes on the market. 

NewsChannel 3 has reached out to both Bertrand and Gelb about the incident. Bertrand will tell his side of the story on camera.

Gelb initially agreed to an interview but changed his mind. Instead, he opted for a written statement that says:

Before the video, Ethan Bertrand told me I was a "pedophile" and a "felon." He also told me I was a disgraceful landlord. To me, those are fighting words. All of this caused me to lose my cool and say things that I now deeply regret.

My only brother was gay and died of AIDS in 1994 after a 22-year struggle. I always supported him, loved him dearly, and he passed away surrounded by his loving family. I still maintain a positive relationship with his partner.

I have supported LGBT causes for many, many years both before and after my brother's passing, and will continue to do so.

I have been the daily target of UCSB students' condescension, pranks, and mocking over the years. They routinely hurl obscenities at me trying to spark a reaction with their cell phones ready.

The private Facebook page, which boasts 3,500 members, is a prime example of Bullying 101. It should be taken down. Its existence deliberately causes me to suffer emotional distress and fuels students (tenants and non-tenants) to get "footage" of me to post. This has led to various incidents over the years all at my expense and emotional well being.

Recently, I have experienced escalations of this bullying. Ethan took this one too far. I was baited and trapped. I regret taking the bait. I have not slept and have been sick all week.

I have never revealed this publicly, but am now forced to do so. As a young boy, I was clinically diagnosed with a disability, Asperger's Syndrome. This means that sometimes I say things without any social filter. I have struggled with its affliction throughout my entire life. It has caused me and my loved ones great pain.

Despite my disability, with hard work, perseverance, and God's grace, I built a real estate company that has served the needs of tens of thousands of students since 1994. It is safe and well maintained due to my diligence and the diligence of my management team.

We are proud of our accomplishments, the services we offer and will continue to offer students in Isla Vista.

- James Gelb

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