Landlord Dario Pini’s tenants at 26 Chapala Street had their power turned off two weeks ago at the instigation of Santa Barbara building inspectors who contend the two-story structure, located where Chapala Street abuts the freeway, was not safe for habitation. “It was illegally occupied,” said City Attorney Ariel Calonne. “The site was a construction zone.”
Pini — with whom City Hall has waged protracted building and safety enforcement actions over the years — countered that only the face of the building was under construction and that none of the interior space of the 11 units were directly affected. His assistant Seth Bruckner said he met for two hours with senior fire and building officials on March 7 to determine whether there were adequate fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and barricades separating the residents from the construction zone. Later that day, Bruckner said he received an e-mail notifying him the precautions were adequate and that the building could remain occupied.
On March 25, Bruckner said five high-ranking city officials called to notify him that they would be showing up to post three-day notices on the tenants’ doors. Bruckner said 95 percent of the tenants were international students, all of whom — with one exception — Pini relocated at great difficulty and considerable expense. Bruckner conceded that there some of the apartments — which rent for around $1,650 a month — experienced leaking. That, he said, was quickly rectified.
Pini accused City Hall of waging a “vindictive” campaign against him, noting that the power was turned off on the Thursday right before a four-day weekend, meaning no city employees were available for discussion. Calonne stated that Pini was given three days advance warning before the power was turned off.