Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street title=
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street
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By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

[Update 11/14/17: Santa Barbara County District Attorney has charged Gelb with disturbing the peace. Read more here.]

[Editor's Note: Warning the below article and video contain graphic and hateful language. An updated response from James Gelb has been added below]

Isla Vista landlord James Gelb verbally assaulted Isla Vista Community Service Director Board President Ethan Bertrand with homophobic hate speech on State Street this past Tuesday.

Bertrand, 21, is openly gay and serves as the unofficial mayor of Isla Vista in the newly formed IVCSD, a special district that represents the Isla Vista community. Gelb is an established landlord in Isla Vista who recently put 37 of his apartment complex properties on the market for an estimated $79 million. 

Around 8:00 p.m., a conversation was captured on video between the two. Bertrand was apparently walking from one work meeting to another when he came across Gelb on the street. Bertrand stated, "I think it's a really good idea you are selling your I.V. properties." 

Recorded on the video, Gelb asked why he said that, then Bertrand can be heard calmly saying, "well you've treated your tenants very poorly." Gelb responded by screaming "Fuck You!" and a slew of other obscenities at Bertrand while following him down the 500 block of State Street. Gelb quickly became irate and asked, "what's your net worth you little fucker?"

Bertrand continued to stay calm and said, "have a good night" while trying to distance himself from Gelb, who persisted. As Bertrand walked away you could hear Gelb yell, "Go fuck yourself... you walk like a fucking fag.. you're a fucking fag." Bertrand then stopped and turned towards Gelb, calmly stating, "hey, I'm very proud to be gay." Gelb continued to shout homophobic slurs and obscenities towards Bertrand, asking if he'd like to "butt fuck" someone. 

Only at this point, you could hear other people on the street intervening by telling Gelb to knock it off. He then stopped in front of the Scientology building to ask what they thought of "fags fucking each other." The video then stops with Bertrand continuing to walk away.

Within the 1:35 minute video, Gelb used homophobic hate speech more than 14 times. 

In a written press release Bertrand said, "Mr. Gelb’s actions caused me to fear for my personal safety, leaving me traumatized for the rest of the evening.  His disgusting behavior shows that in 2017, LGBTQ people in our community can still face harassment, discrimination, and the threat of violence. I hope that Mr. Gelb can heal from the trauma that has caused him to treat people this way, but I also demand that he be held accountable for this unconscionable attack on the LGBTQ community.”

Gelb responded to edhat with a written response* regarding the altercation that took place. Gelb stated he was provoked due to Bertrand calling him a "pedophile" and a "felon" which he says caused him to lose his cool and say things he regrets. He continued to claim his brother died of AIDS and he's supported many LGBT causes and will continue to do so. Bertrand has denied calling Gelb a pedophile.

In the remainder of Gelb's response, he expresses being bullied by his tenants which have caused him "emotional distress and fuels students (tenants and non-tenants) to get footage" of his reactions. Gelb maintains that he was baited and trapped.

"I regret taking the bait. I have not slept and have been sick all week. I have never revealed this publicly but am now forced to do so. As a young boy I was clinically diagnosed with a disability, Asperger's Syndrome. This means that I sometimes say things without any social filter. I have struggled with this affliction throughout my entire life," wrote Gelb. "Despite my disability, with hard work, perseverance and God's grace, I built a real estate company that has served the needs of tens of thousands of students since 1994. It is safe and well maintained due to my diligence and the diligence of my management team."

According to Yelp and Google Reviews, Gelb's property company "Del Playa Rentals" has a 1.5 star rating with a number of reviewers warning off potential renters. Many of the reviews report aggressive behavior and vulgar language as well as poor property management and several lawsuits.

The Santa Barbara Police Department is investigating this incident and has referred it to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. 

[*Editors Note: An earlier version of this article stated edhat had not yet received a response from Mr. Gelb. The article has been updated to reflect his response.]

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biguglystick Nov 13, 2017 11:47 AM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Gelb's statement is a weak attempt at saving his butt. He is rotten and ugly to the core. I am disgusted when I think of how many college girls were sexually assaulted by this utter piece of garbage. His attitude towards females, tenants and gays is NOT ACCEPTABLE. SEXUAL ASSAULT IS NOT OK. Bribing young girls for sexual favors in trade of rent is NOT OK. Please, Santa Barbara, prosecute this jerk to the fullest. I'm so sick of him.

yin yang Nov 12, 2017 10:54 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Gelb's written statement is here:

so his brother was infected with HIV in 1972... Doubtful. NY Times, explaining the myth of patient zero: "The strain of H.I.V. responsible for almost all AIDS cases in the United States, which was carried from Zaire to Haiti around 1967, spread from there to New York City around 1971, researchers concluded in the journal Nature. From New York, it spread to San Francisco around 1976."

I read And the Band Played On, and had my book signed by Randy Shilts at UCSB, may Randy rest in peace. I won't take Gelb's word on ANYTHING.

Thank you for your work, Ethan Bertrand! I and we support you!

a-1510553826 Nov 12, 2017 10:17 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

the video should play for you here on Edhat. The second one, not the first. I see it's connected to FB, which I am not a part of, but the video here played for me.

It's here:
and here.

UTTERLY INDEFENSIBLE. Hope he loses $$; he already lost his heart and/or soul.

biguglystick Nov 11, 2017 12:00 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

This guy is a complete reprehensible filthy PIG. He is a regular at the restaurant I work in and he talks loudly on the phone so everyone can hear, he has openly shown pornography on his phone to my male coworkers in plain view of all the surrounding tables, he has bragged about trading sexual favors for rent from young college girls (disgusting, abhorrent and probably illegal). He is known to frequent the sex store on State st. nearly every night, he is a big-time regular there too. Gelb is a misogynist of the umpth degree, a vile foul mouthed man who needs a comeuppance. What utter human garbage. What's next? A rape? Unfortunately, Santa Barbara landlords seem to get away with murder. How long until the law starts protecting tenents from landlords like this who keep every single deposit and do not clean or maintain their properties? I hope he DOES sell each and every property and is run out of town. This video has gone VIRAL on SB social media. I've seen it on facebook too. About time this jerk is outed for who he really is, Santa Barbara has more of these types unfortunately. I hope he is twisting in his skin knowing that the whole town thinks he's garbage.

tagdes Nov 11, 2017 11:31 AM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Flicka mentioned a landlord showing his true colors...hmm, Gelb is German for yellow. Anyway he dines at Petrin'is most every Sunday and comes in by himself right before lunch closing and sits in a back corner booth or the back room. Seems to come late intentionally, likely to avoid people. He just got a new Rolls a month or so ago and and parks it in the far corner of CVS or on Calle Laureles if it's not crowded.

yin yang Nov 12, 2017 10:21 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

We don't know exactly how it started, but a citizen is not supposed to stand up for themselves under extreme, disgusting attack?! Yes, they should, and Bertrand did. Gelb has zero stance; he's just blacklisted himself.

a-1510417370 Nov 11, 2017 08:22 AM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Those who know him know Mr. Gelb is a misogynist of the first degree, and has never respected women. Now add gay people to that list. He's a classic example of a a very wealthy person who's tried but can't buy happiness.

Roger Nov 10, 2017 05:54 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

What sucks is cleaning those places during the Summer I pulled a motorcycle out of a wall sold it for a hundred bucks hard work kid didn't deserve to be treated like that. How would you like someone talking to your kid like that? or your mother...

Flicka Nov 10, 2017 05:20 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

A set-up to get the landlord to show his true colors? How does one get someone to spout ugly language and call another nasty names? The guy made that decision on his own. Were there parents with children who had to witness this vulgar person publically make a fool of himself?

REX OF SB Nov 10, 2017 05:06 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Wow, what a "man." (Not!) Someone ought to advise this…gentleman…that real men don't call other men homophobic names. Any psychiatrist or psychologist will tell you that those who do usually have unresolved doubts about their own masculinity. What a total waste of human protoplasm.

sblocal33 Nov 10, 2017 04:03 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

This guy is the biggest prick! I've seen him cruise around for years walking the beach alone and driving his Rolls Royce alone (no friends huh) and he came into Petrinis as my and my family were eating lunch and he was talking so loud everyone was brought into his conversation and then he continued to tell the person on the phone how the security deposit won't be given back because the carpet and the blinds and the this and that were dirty and all of these other rediculous reasons as to why he had to keep "all" of the security deposit and how he didn't give a shit what they have to say etc etc. but unfortunately landlords are allowed to treat tenants this way here in Santa Barbara because they don't reprimand them or take away their rights to do so. How much you wanna bet he was given his money by Grandparents or his parents after them passing away and he makes his money off of it being given to him. He is a POS and don't rent from this disgusting dirt ball. His language just shows how he is as a human being. It's none of his business how another lives their life in their own personal world. Such a disgrace!

nope Nov 10, 2017 03:58 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

DRELLIM - Those red lines under your words mean you spelled them wrong. Perhaps you should take two seconds to correct those mistakes so as not to look doubly foolish next time you attempt to defend a reprehensible imbecile.

sblocal33 Nov 10, 2017 04:16 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

A set up!! I think not! I've seen this man personally at a restaurant conducting buisness on his cell phone and how awful he was to his secretary or office person and what they needed to do to keep the deposit. He didn't know me or who I was with and we just say there having to listen to him and his rantings. I recognized him because he always would walk the beach in front of the hotel I worked at and he passes me all the time in his RR. He shouldn't be a landlord if he can't handle to college students or he should have his helpers do it so he doesn't have to like everyone else does. Saying he can't handle howbthe college kids treat him is an EXCUSE! Owners of businesses get treated badly all the time yet they still hold themselves accountable as an adult and an owner of a business. Also most of these college students have their parents co sign for them, if he doesnt like how they treat or talk to him then boot them out. To say that's the reason he's screaming these types of words on a public street is insane to me and to others. There is no reason to act out and call anyone names le this and in public for that matters being set up? Yeah ok, how about he could have kept walking instead of engaging with this young man. Nobody is forced to use such hate and such disgusting language at another for any reason. The young man wasn't being vulgar or using bad language he was simply stating how he thought he treated his tenants badly which I am sure is the truth considering I heard it first hand on how he handles buisness and guess what nobody set him up at the restaurant he just showed everyone his true colors and personality and it was gross and here it is GROSS AGAIN. So keep backing him up in sure you have a pretty penny waiting for you in the end for doing so! Gimme a break!

a-1510566302 Nov 13, 2017 01:45 AM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

this was in reply to NOV 10, 2017 02:48 PM post. No "Reply" is exact; that command doesn't work on this site. And a post doesn't appear until a poster hits refresh. That's why some posts appear 5 -15 times; they don't show up unless poster refreshes and looks for their post.

a-1510355340 Nov 10, 2017 03:09 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Coincidence? No. I think that many people are unfortunately having to resort to video record their encounters with people who are more wealthy and powerful than them (ie. landlords, cops, etc.) in order to be believed. Most of these people are minorities because society systemically does not serve them. So no, I don't think it was a coincidence. I think someone saw something start to escalate and whipped out their video camera to protect themselves.

a-1510354129 Nov 10, 2017 02:48 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

In what way was this ever set up? They were having a discussion and Gelb flew off the handle and said awful awful awful things. If Gelb was that upset he could have said one F you and walked away but he severely crossed the line. No amount of "setting up" whether real or imagined warrants such behavior. Geez.. is everyone so numb in this Trump era that we think such behavior is ok?

a-1510352952 Nov 10, 2017 02:29 PM
Landlord Verbally Assaults Isla Vista Official on State Street

Gelb has been worse than Pini ever has. But most people living in SB don't know about it because he only screws over kids in Isla Vista. When I was going to school, a few friends rented from Gelb and used to tell me horror stories. He'd repeatedly threaten the male tenants and use awful language (as evidenced in this video). With the female tenants, he constantly sexually harassed them and offered to give them free or discounted rent in return for sexual favors. I've heard this from numerous women throughout the years of living in Isla Vista. Thank you Ethan for standing up for IV residents and being cool and calm while this predator continues to show who he really is.


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