Friday, October 19 , 2018, 6:11 pm | Fair 85º

 
 
 
 

City Inspections Find ‘Severely Substandard Conditions’ at Dario Pini Rental, Motel Properties

People staying at one motel were told to immediately find new accommodations after the property was red-tagged

Santa Barbara city inspectors found this dilapidated bathroom in a two-bedroom apartment owned by Dario Pini that contained 16 beds. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara city inspectors found this dilapidated bathroom in a two-bedroom apartment owned by Dario Pini that contained 16 beds. (Santa Barbara city photo)

After three days of surprise inspections at residential and motel properties owned by Santa Barbara landlord Dario Pini, the city announced Friday that it had found “severely substandard living conditions” in many of the inspected units.

The city received inspection warrants for 164 of Pini’s units on Monday, and spent the following three days performing health-and-safety checks.

According to the City Attorney’s Office, residents in many of those units “have been living in units with severely substandard conditions, including most commonly a lack of safe and adequate heating, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions.”

Over half of Pini’s residents are children, the office said in a release.

The addresses of the units are not officially available to the public because the inspection warrants are sealed to protect the integrity of the investigations and tenants’ privacy, Deputy City Attorney John Doimas told Noozhawk.

Residents staying at one 22-room motel were told by the city to immediately find other accommodations after inspectors closed down the property for “extreme safety risks resulting from hazardous modifications to a gas-fired boiler system located in an electrical equipment room containing significant electrical violations.”

A live cockroach was found in one of Dario Pini’s rental units in Santa Barbara Click to view larger
A live cockroach was found in one of Dario Pini’s rental units in Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara city photo)

Doimas said the city offered 12 motel residents temporary housing assistance at hotel rooms the city had secured for them.

Pini told Noozhawk the affected property is the Ala Mar Motel at 102 W. Cabrillo Blvd., and claimed the issue was a half-inch gas line connected to a water heater that was supposed to be three-quarters of an inch — a problem, he said, was corrected within an hour.

Pini also told Noozhawk that his personal residence was inspected, calling it a “complete invasion of my privacy.”

In a statement, the City Attorney’s Office said a lack of routine building maintenance rendered bathrooms in many of the inspected units unsanitary. Most units were also noted as having rat and cockroach infestations and unsafe or inoperable heaters.

“One unit had to be immediately posted with cautionary ‘yellow tags’ due to unsafe conditions resulting from the illegal division of one apartment into two units,” the office said.

A heater in one of Dario Pini’s rental unit was marked with a sticker warning — in English and Spanish — not to use the device. Click to view larger
A heater in one of Dario Pini’s rental unit was marked with a sticker warning — in English and Spanish — not to use the device. (Santa Barbara city photo)

Pini told Noozhawk that that, too, was corrected, and that the division came when one of two arguing tenants in the unit hooked up a stove in her section of the unit to avoid talking to the other tenant.

Pini’s real estate and management company, DLP Management, Inc., oversees hotels and vacation rentals, residential properties and commercial properties primarily in the Santa Barbara area.

In March, Pini pleaded no contest to violating a worker safety regulation and was sentenced to three years of probation. 

He has also been fined by the city for code violations and the lack of progress on mandated projects to repair and upgrade his properties. 

“Many tenants also volunteered important information about the lack of responsive management at these properties,” the city attorney’s office said.

A bathroom at one of Dario Pini’s rental units was found with only the wooden studs on the walls instead of drywall or another covering. Click to view larger
A bathroom at one of Dario Pini’s rental units was found with only the wooden studs on the walls instead of drywall or another covering. (Santa Barbara city photo)

“Dario Pini had to be confronted and warned by police officers at two locations in order to prevent his efforts to interfere with the inspections and dissuade tenants from speaking with the city teams.”

City Attorney Ariel Calonne said that in June he had asked the City Council to fund greater enforcement resources to tackle unsafe or unlawful housing conditions in the city.

On June 21, the council awarded his office $65,000 for “special counsel services” for that purpose at its weekly public meeting.

The inspections, Calonne told Noozhawk, stem from that.

“I made the decision to pursue a far more aggressive enforcement approach than we’ve used in the past, so that we can get some results,” he told Noozhawk earlier this week. “We’ve had some modest success with our work with Mr. Pini. That success doesn’t satisfy me.”

Pini called the inspections “an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money.” 

“Any money that’s been allocated by City Council … was dealt behind closed doors,” he said. “And no one’s been aware of taxpayers’ money being funded for this.”

“They won’t tell me what properties they’re attacking,” he added. “They won’t tell you anything unless they find a dangerous situation.”

The city’s next task, Calonne said, is to evaluate the evidence it collected to determine whether more legal and enforcement actions should be taken.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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.

A tarp is used to create an exterior sleeping area at one of Dario Pini’s rental units in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
A tarp is used to create an exterior sleeping area at one of Dario Pini’s rental units in Santa Barbara. (Santa Barbara city photo)

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