Bright orange mesh fencing is cropping up along the bluffs of Isla Vista this week and next. The temporary fencing — which will be installed along the ocean side of five public parks — will fortify some existing low wooden railings and will also be installed where no barriers exists. “It should be difficult to climb over,” said Santa Barbara County Assistant CEO Renée Bahl. “There should be no mistaking….The number one [reason] is safety.” The county — which owns some of the parks and Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District manages the rest — secured an emergency 30-day permit from the California Coastal Commission and UCSB provided the funds.
The cliffs have long posed a threat to residents and party-goers in the seaside college town. An organization called “Fence Isla Vista” was established to increase communication between community members and county staff to solve the problem. Just last month, the body of 20-year-old UCSB student Sierra Markee-Winkler was found on an Isla Vista beach below the 6800 block of Del Playa Drive. While many believe she fell to her death, the exact cause has not been released from the Corner’s Office.
Less than a week ago, an unidentified college-aged man survived a fall. He was found on the beach below the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive, a section of the oceanfront strip that is fenced with a low wooden railing. The man sustained moderate injuries, and due to patient’s right to privacy under HIPAA, an update on his condition is not available, said Fire Department Captain David Sadecki. Since 2010, 20 people have sustained injuries from falling off the cliffs and three have died; seven have died since 2001.
The difficulty remains striking a balance between installing a fence that is sturdy but also aesthetically pleasing, said Bahl. The Coastal Commission will be required to approve the permit for a permanent fence. None of the five beach access points in Isla Vista will be closed.
“I am grateful for the enthusiastic support of our Trustees, including those who stepped forward at our UC Santa Barbara Foundation Board meeting last Saturday to pledge their support for a Student Safety Enhancement Fund, which will help us address immediate and emerging needs to improve safety in Isla Vista,” said Chancellor Henry Yang in a statement.
“The temporary fencing along the Isla Vista bluffs is one of many actions we are taking – including increased patrols by police officers and community service officers, additional lighting, and many more – in consultation with Santa Barbara County officials, residents of Isla Vista, and all stakeholders. We appreciate the County’s collaboration on this project, and we look forward to continuing to work together to protect the safety and well-being of our students and all members of our community.”