This week Santa Barbara city officials continued enforcement efforts against notorious landlord Dario Pini. Pini owns and operates - according to Pini himself - thousands of rental and motel units across Santa Barbara.
“The city has been working with Mr. Pini for nearly 30 years and we haven’t been successful in achieving any kind of long-term solution to the continued neglect and health and safety violations that are experienced by the residents of his properties,” Santa Barbara City Attorney Ariel Calonne said.
The city says it doesn’t know how many units Pini actually owns.
“Unfortunately we do not know for sure. Mr. Pini is supposed to notify us of each property pursuant to a prior court order, but he does not do so reliably,” Calonne said.
Last summer, the Santa Barbara City Council financially backed an effort to fix unlawful and dangerous housing conditions. In early December, city officials launched a series of surprise inspections on 164 of Pini’s properties.
“The result of the inspections in December was that we identified over 3,200 code violations at the properties we inspected...pretty staggering,” Calonne said.
On Thursday, the Santa Barbara city attorney’s office and the county district attorney’s office filed a new kind of suit against Pini, a civil suit alleging violations of California’s Unfair Competition Law.
"It allows for a lawsuit alleging any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Kelly Scott said.
Calonne wrote in a statement that “California law is clear that persistent code violations of this magnitude amount to unfair competition that harms Santa Barbara residents and taxpayers.”
On Tuesday, inspectors flagged more of Pini’s properties, and Pini has another 30 days’ chance to voluntarily fix his properties.
“If he does not, we will ask a court to appoint a receiver,” Calonne said. “The receiver takes control of the properties, collects the rent...has the power to borrow against those properties and hire contractors and other workers to put those properties into safe condition.”