A settlement between the City of Santa Ana and a slumlord is getting very mixed reviews. Carmine Esposito agreed to plead guilty to one of 95 misdemeanor counts of violating the Santa Ana housing code, to renovate his six apartment buildings and to pay $70,000. The city is happy with it. Tenants wanted a sentence more like that in a recent Los Angeles case in which the owner served 30 days in jail and another 30 days in one of his run-down apartments.
Esposito got a settlement, not a sentence, and all things considered, it is an acceptable one. Unlike the Los Angeles slumlord, Esposito did not have prior convictions for similar offenses, even though he did allow his buildings to deteriorate and deserved to be the first major target of one of the few efforts in Orange County to crack down on slum housing.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the situation was the action of tenants. Last February, about 500 Latino renters, many of them here illegally and presumed to be afraid to complain, joined in a renters' strike to force landlords like Esposito to make needed repairs. It was a unique action that may have had as much impact on landlords as the city's criminal charges.