Amid the flurry of campus elections and midterms, a group of UCSB students petitioned the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for better lighting in Isla Vista and won $100,000 in community block grants.
The county supervisors voted unanimously to approve the funds, which will initially be used to replace bulbs on Del Playa Drive, Sabado Tarde Road, Trigo Road, and Pasado Road with energy-efficient LED lights.
The campaign, which will improve the lighting throughout Isla Vista, was initiated by Rhandy Siordia, the Associated Students external vice president of local affairs. Siordia helped establish a fence at Walter Capps Memorial Park earlier this year. It was the hard work and lobbying of his office and a number of other students involved in AS that convinced the supes to allocate the funds to improve lighting.
Isla Vista, with no local government save for the Recreation and Parks Department, has long been overlooked when it comes to identifying structural needs and deficits. That job rests largely, then, on the activism of the the students living in Isla Vista. If we want roads to be repaved, fences to be put up to protect us from falling off cliffs, or the lighting to improve so that we can feel safer at night, we have to make enough noise to make it happen. The activist students themselves had to canvass Isla Vista and make note of the places where lighting was the worst. Without their hard work, none of this would have happened.
A number of people have compared Isla Vista to the elephant graveyard of the Lion King, for good reason. Speaking as a student whose part-time job often has me working until 1:30 in the morning, the darkness of Isla Vista has on more than one occasion made me concerned enough to choose to drive from Isla Vista to the other side of campus. Biking at night means you run the risk of a car not seeing you, and don’t even think about walking in the dark. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come close to hitting someone while driving simply because I couldn’t see them due to the poor lighting. Headlights can only help you so much when you’re on the lookout for people in what is almost pitch-blackness.
While studies on the correlation between lighting and crime have found that brighter streets don’t always mean safer ones, the introduction of better lighting in Isla Vista is not money wasted. At the very least, students walking home from classes late at night won’t have to feel so afraid. Hopefully an increase in lighting on these first four roads — which are all near the ocean and high-traffic, the ones with the most parties — means the Sheriff’s office won’t have to invest in as much money in floodlights come Halloween.