SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Property owner Dario Pini who has had a rough relationship for years with Santa Barbara city officials, is now facing court ordered inspections.
164 sites are going to be checked for code enforcement and also health and safety concerns.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne says he wants to have facts, and an evidence based reported after receiving complaints from tenants and neighbors. The city would then evaluate the inspection report and possibly take a range of action. He said the photos taken during these inspection would be "used in court" possibly early in 2017 after he determines "what kind of legal action is appropriate."
Already a gas line issue at the Ala Mar Motel on Cabrillo Boulevard has led to that building getting a "red tag" sign and occupancy has been denied. Those who have booked rooms are being relocated to another nearby hotel owned by Pini. One guest at the counter said he has stayed there over 20 years and never had a problem.
Tuesday 49 units were inspected and Pini said one had a sink that was not approved. The tenants were relocated. No other known problems were noted.
Calonne says after the full range of inspections are done, over a 14 days period, he will have reports from his office, building officials, fire and overall an evidence based investigation.
"Safe housing is near or at the top of the list" when it comes to Calonne's priorities.
He also said, tenants have been cooperative with the inspections. They were advised that any retaliation is illegal.
Pini says, "we have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and we check those on a daily basis. There is nothing wrong with the rooms and they are looking for every cranny they can."
He said the police officers along with the city staff members amounted to about 20 people going through his properties. "I pay over two million dollars in property taxes and the amount of money they are wasting today and this week is phenomenal. People are fed up with it," said Pini.
He says compliance with repair orders over the years have gone beyond the actual order and can often lead to lengthy design obligations, reviews by various agencies, and months of meetings.
The city says it does not want to displace any hotel guests or apartment tenants, but needs to verify safe housing. A special approval has been given by the city to pay for any relocation that is not funded by Pini and the cost will be assessed as part of the enforcement action.
Each address will be evaluated alone and the overall report findings will not be used on all properties.
Some immediate actions will be taken if they are determined to be putting tenants at risk. Other actions will be handled through the city's report to the court.
In the past Pini has been cited for violations by the city, some that resulted in jail time.
In recent years Pini has pointed out that he is renting to tenants who are often rejected elsewhere and he provides housing before they are left on the streets. He says many are families and "hard working people."
Pini also says some tenants have taken advantage of his units with extra occupants and impacts without approvals.