Del Playa Rentals’ James Gelb Charged in Slur-Filled Confrontation

Ethan Bertrand to Host Pro-LGBTQ Rally on Thursday

On Nov. 7, Gelb yelled homophobic slurs at Isla Vista CSD President Ethan Bertrand. (Image taken from video provided by Ethan Bertrand)

Gwendolyn Wu

After Del Playa Rentals proprietor James Gelb hurled a barrage of homophobic slurs toward Isla Vista Community Services District Board President Ethan Bertrand last week, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley announced Tuesday that the county would file charges against Gelb.

In a press release available on the county website, Dudley wrote that she would charge Gelb with one count of disturbing the peace. If convicted, Gelb could face up to $400 in fines and/or a stint in county jail of no more than 90 days long. His arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 4.

“The charge arose out of an incident occurring on November 7, 2017 on State Street, wherein Mr. Gelb allegedly used offensive language which was likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction,” Dudley wrote.

The incident, partially captured on video, was first reported by the Santa Barbara Independent on Friday morning. Bertrand approached Gelb on State Street last Tuesday, telling the landlord that he treats his tenants “very poorly.” In a video captured by Bertrand’s friend, Gelb repeatedly calls Bertrand a “fag” and makes lewd suggestions about Bertrand having anal sex with other men. Bertrand began the conversation by telling Gelb he treats his tenants poorly, and later said he’s glad to see Gelb go — referring to Gelb recently putting all 37 of his I.V. properties up for sale for an estimated $80 million.

In response to the incident, Bertrand and Santa Barbara-based LGBTQ nonprofit Pacific Pride Foundation, will be hosting a rally in response to the incident at De La Guerra Plaza on Thursday at 6 p.m.

“I was broken that night, but I’m now ready to share my story and be a leader here on this issue of LGBTQ equality, which I’ve been passionate about for a long time,” Bertrand told The Bottom Line last week.

Shomik Mukherjee contributed reporting.


Nov. 15, 12:35 p.m.: Information was added regarding Gelb’s arraignment date.