Sunday, November 29 , 2015, 6:41 pm | Fair 54º

Neighbors Cry Foul Over New Dario Pini Rental Plans on Westside

With lawsuit pending, controversial Santa Barbara landlord runs into local opposition in bid to build second two-story residence where one currently exists

Some of the neighbors opposing controversial Santa Barbara landlord Dario Pini’s proposed project at 1911 Chino St. are, from left, Evelyn Lee, Ralph Romero, Patrick Burns, Ryan Romero and Richard Berrett.
Some of the neighbors opposing controversial Santa Barbara landlord Dario Pini’s proposed project at 1911 Chino St. are, from left, Evelyn Lee, Ralph Romero, Patrick Burns, Ryan Romero and Richard Berrett.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

A Santa Barbara landlord who recently was sued by the city over the condition of his properties has his sights set on developing more rental units in a Westside neighborhood. Prospective neighbors are pushing back, however, and are taking their cause to city officials.

Dario Pini recently submitted an application to the city to build a two-story, five-bedroom residence at 1911 Chino St., directly behind a single-family home that he already rents out.

Neighbors say the front house has four bedrooms, but that seven people currently live there. Following that pattern, they say the proposed structure at the rear of the property is likely to become a “boarding house” that could house 10 people, or more.

The city’s Architectural Board of Review got a glimpse of the project on Jan. 7 and will be looking at a revised proposal at its Tuesday night meeting.

If the board approves the project, neighbors have vowed to appeal the decision to the city council.

The project is the first to be submitted by Pini since the city filed a civil suit against him in December, alleging that his properties were poorly managed, filled with code violations and packed with too many residents. The suit threatened to put the properties into receivership until the violations are fixed.

When Architectural Board of Review members took a look at Pini’s new project, they heard from a half-dozen neighbors with concerns about his plans, and his track record.

Board member Gary Mosul observed that although the building plans followed the city’s rules exactly, a problem still remained.

“Clearly this is a boarding house,” he said, lamenting that the ABR is only charged with considering the aesthetics of projects.

“We all see it and we can’t do anything about it,” he said, encouraging the neighbors to appeal to the city council. “I think this is horrible for your neighborhood.

“We also know that (Dario Pini) does this in town,” he said.

The controversy swirling around Pini was on the minds of neighbors who gathered Friday to look over revised plans from his architect. Five of the neighbors adjacent to the Chino Street property met in Evelyn Lee’s dining room, with the new plans spread out across the table.

The issues are twofold, according to neighbor Patrick Burns.

There are the concerns about the project itself, that the two-story structure will tower above neighbors’ fences and have windows that peer into their homes, that it will block mountain views, and that it will add to parking congestion on the street.

But Burns said a deeper issue is Pini’s alleged history of overcrowding in the existing house, and at other properties.

“There’s no message that he’s not going to do this again,” Lee added.

Richard Berrett, who lives next door, said Pini’s project isn’t compatible with the neighborhood, while neighbors Ryan and Ralph Romero say the two-story residence would look directly into a bedroom in their home.

But Gil Barry, Pini’s architect for the project, said he has “bent over backward” to address all of the neighbors’ concerns, even giving them two weeks to go over the plans. He said he eliminated three bedrooms after hearing the concern over the number of tenants, and he’s worked to preserve the views.

In his 35 years as an architect, “I have never made this many accomodations,” he said. “It took all the profit out of the project.

“Some of the neighbors made ridiculous comments like they thought it was a dorm for students,” he said, adding that state law prohibits landlords from discriminating between four Santa Barbara City College students or a family of four.

“The neighbors’ concerns had nothing to do with architecture,” he said. “It had to do with social concerns.”

Barry said Pini had rented the front house to four people, who he said must have allowed three others to move in without the landlord’s knowledge.

“Is that his fault that they squeezed in extra people?” he asked. “He gets blamed for things that the people do.”

Barry pointed out that the project is consistent with the lot’s zoning, and fits in with the city’s goal to build more rental housing in the downtown area.

“We’re providing housing, which is a needed thing, and we’re following all the rules,” he said. “I was shocked that there would be this opposition.”

City Planner Betty Weiss said the city has an interest in seeing Pini’s properties improved.

She confirmed for Noozhawk that the front house on the Chino Street property has been under enforcement from the building and safety division, but she said she couldn’t elaborate further.

The building and safety division, part of the city’s Community Development Department, must address how many people are safely living at a space.

“They don’t share a lot of details,” Weiss said. “They are trying to work it out.”

The 1911 Chino St. property is zoned R-2, for multiple-unit development, which technically would permit 12 dwelling units on that parcel.

“The number of bedrooms and bathrooms is not a zoning violation,” Weiss explained.

She also said that the city works in layers, with planning and development processing Pini’s new project, while building and safety works separately to enforce any codes that might be violated.

For neighbor Patrick Burns, that response is not enough.

“This is a case study,” he said, pointing to Pini’s plans for the site.

Burns urged the city to look more closely at how it processes projects from what he calls repeat offenders. He said he and his neighbors feel frustrated, and have been told the city can only do so much.

“Our hands are tied ...” he said. “How do we stop somebody who just scoffs at the law?”

Tuesday’s Architectural Board of Review meeting begins at 3 p.m. in the David Gebhard Meeting Room at 630 Garden St.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Patrick Burns, left, and Richard Berrett discuss Dario Pini's plans for 1911 Chino St. during a neighborhood meeting Friday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Patrick Burns, left, and Richard Berrett discuss Dario Pini’s plans for 1911 Chino St. during a neighborhood meeting Friday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

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» on 01.21.13 @ 02:15 PM

Gil Barry knows that Pini is a crook. Barry is bed with Pini and should be scrutinized from here on out. Absent from his morality, Lets not hire Barry any longer. Also, the city government is full of cowards. Since I was a little boy growing up in SB, Pini has been skirting on the fringes, and causing real life pain for all involved.

» on 01.21.13 @ 05:58 PM

Regardless of what you think of Pini, the issue here is not who is doing it but why the City including Schneider, White, House, and Murillo allow this type of infill.

Simply put, they have bought into the concept of high density city planning.  The orders have gone out from on high there will be little or no enforcement of zoning regulations.

Don’t like it?  Well folks you elected them to office.  You continue to elect socialist oriented councils that state openly they want to change forever the city of Santa Barbara to multi-story high density.  Without enough off street parking and in the process without enough street capacity to handle cars.  Why?  They believe in intentional congestion to force people into buses or bikes that then gives them the justification for cramming them in like rats.

Don’t believe me?  Call Murillo (husband is Pritchett formerly of the TCC) and ask her if she is going to continue to vote for high density?  Then call White, Schneider, and House and ask them the same.  When you get “yes” stop voting for these types.

» on 01.21.13 @ 07:54 PM

Good job Evelyn!!

» on 01.21.13 @ 09:55 PM

“Is that his fault that they squeezed in extra people?” he asked. “He gets blamed for things that the people do.”

Yes Mr. Barry it is his fault.  This is how he does business and you know it.

» on 01.21.13 @ 11:41 PM

Too bad that in his zeal to polarize, “Really” completely makes up the facts. The R-2 and R-3 zoning on this- and other westside properties- goes back decades- .  The problem with Pinis proposed project is that, sadly, it meets the zoning- even thow the intent of residential was single family homes. But what happened in the decades following the zoning, is that state and federal laws prohobit local governments (regardless of who is in office) from “defining family”. Hence Pini can rent to whomever he wants.

» on 01.22.13 @ 03:25 AM

Obviously you missed my point.

High density infill has been a project of those in power for decades.  A political football designed to allow concentration of power with imports.  I don’t give a hoot what the current “legal” zoning is or whether or not it meets the current definitions. 

The City of Santa Barbara residents that moved here for a specific lifestyle are being denied that with the current infill.  Measure E was an attempt to stop that through jobs.  Those who voted for that political faction back then did not realize they were backing 3 card monte. 

Look at the statements of the current Housing Authority who made statements that his intent was (and continues to be) destruction of Single Family housing with yards and off street parking.  Those comments were made over a decade ago. 

Polarization?  *chuckle* The people who came here (like you), and for political purposes decided, in their not so infinite wisdom, Santa Barbara “had to be change” to preserve it. 

Tell you what, if you don’t have at least one side of your family tree here by the 1880’s, why not go back to where your family came from.  It will certainly solve the population issue, the water issue, and of course the traffic issue.  Quit trying to “preserve” the city by changing it.

I’ll help you pack, give you gas money, and a brown bag lunch….adios amigo.


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