The Real ’70s

The article “Remembering the Isla Vista Riots,” the reader comments that follow it online, and most retrospectives of that era take the position that Isla Vista’s cultural significance began and ended in 1970. [4/22/10, Remembering the Isla Vista Riots.] In fact, what happened after that furious winter and spring is much more important. That’s when students and townies established local organizations in what most outsiders dismissed as just another disorderly ghetto. These organizations included an elected community council, with its planning, police and animal control commissions, a medical clinic, a special district to create and maintain parks, plus counseling and childcare centers and a food co-operative.

This base generated a movement to create a City of Isla Vista, with the vision to demonstrate that this little piece of the planet could be a proving ground for supportive social infrastructures in a society that was crumbling at its core. But this positive movement was brutally crushed by the cabal that still controls the town—the University, the County, and landlords (witness Floatopia 2010). The University, for example, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on blatantly biased “analyses” to show the proposed city wouldn’t be “financially feasible” when all it required was a minor tax increase. And the County’s panels that prevented putting I.V. cityhood on the ballot were all 4-1 Republicans at a time when the town voted 80-percent-plus Democratic.

Yes, the local power structure was able to stifle this liberation movement so that today residents have no handles to influence how the town is run. It’s little wonder they don’t give a damn about supporting a community in Isla Vista and are simply looking to have fun and move on. But many of those who participated in Isla Vista’s community development period of the 1970s and ’80s remember the thrill of those achievements and are gathering in Anisq’Oyo Park on July 31 for a reunion. That’s when the real commemoration will occur. —Carmen Lodise

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