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A Teenage Wasteland No More

Isla Vista Faces a Defining Moment


Many expressions inhabit the English language to describe a pivotal moment, such as “It’s go time.” There are other, more graphic and slightly vulgar, sayings that convey the same message. Any way you decide to describe it, Isla Vista is facing a defining moment. The events that occurred last winter and spring have forced the hands of representatives from UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara City College. No longer can these entities claim that someone else is responsible for the area; local residents and people from around the nation are calling “bull.” Whether or not these groups decide to do something meaningful is the question. It’s easy to talk about the great things you would like to do; it’s a lot more difficult to follow through.

The Solutions Are Plentiful

Reasonable suggestions have come from many intelligent people on how to convert I.V. from a violence-ridden place to a productive community, but these plans require financial support and buy in from the main entities involved, and this may not be forthcoming.

For example, Lieutenant Rob Plastino, from the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, has discussed several proposals to improve I.V. Each has been reasonable and could be implemented immediately. He talked about partnering with UC Santa Barbara to take a tougher stance on students who run afoul of the law — perhaps a three-strikes-you-are-out type policy in the future.

Another suggestion involved developing a program for Community Service Officers (CSO) through the Isla Vista Foot Patrol. This program would be similar to one in San Luis Obispo in which CSOs are the first point of contact for noise complaints and similar offenses. The idea is that college students could help guide their peers. The sticking point in this plan is money. Although $14 per hour sounds like a wise investment to many of us, one of the main entities has to agree to pay it before a program like this can be implemented.

Creating a Crop of Leaders

A town hall meeting on October 9 was scheduled to let community members discuss the possibility of self-governance. Among the groups discussing local leadership is the Committee for a New Isla Vista (CNIV), which envisions a more enlightened I.V. in which students become leaders and set the tone for the community. The CNIV is calling for UCSB and the county to support programs to train both students, and anyone else who is interested, to become effective leaders.

However, before any of this enlightenment can occur, there are a few myths about I.V. that need to be dispelled. Here are two:

One is that people should be free to play their music as loud as they want, and make as much noise as they want, whenever they want. As one local said, when young people leave their parents’ house and move to I.V., they feel driven to prove that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Yeah, maybe if they lived in a bubble. In society and in a community, you have to make sure that your freedom doesn’t impinge on someone else’s. For this reason, there is no inalienable right allowing students to play their music as loud as they want, whenever they want. I’m not sure why students who move to I.V. come to the area with this notion. Students who go to Harvard or Stanford don’t assume that the laws that are enforced in the rest of the country don’t apply to the area they live in.

Another myth is that I.V. can’t be changed. In the eight years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen some great things happen, like the beautification of the downtown area, the renovation of parks, the addition of street lights, and the renovation of many apartment complexes. The landlords on our street have gone to a lot of effort and expense to renovate their properties, add attractive landscaping, and improve the general ambiance of the area.

I’ve also encountered many issues that are easy to solve but still remain a problem. Take, for example, the fact that some landlords consistently rent to tenants who are bad for the neighborhood. They either have huge parties that end up in fights in the street, show no respect for their environment by dumping trash into the open spaces, or consistently play loud music and annoy everyone around them. A ticket or fine for the landlord of houses with repeated offenses might make them a little more careful in their rental policies.

Despite all the problems I.V. has had recently, I am feeling hopeful. It seems that people are finally ready to tackle Isla Vista’s problems and find solutions. Instead of throwing up their hands and saying nothing can be done, the powers that be are being forced to come up with plans to ensure that this school year is much different from the last. Let’s see what they put in place.

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