A Habitat:Isla Vista is a habitat not fit for growing a tomato, let alone a family. Or is it? With holiday season just around the corner, I began to wonder, what is it like for the few families that call I.V. home?
The other day I was walking close to Keg and Bottle and nearly got plowed over by a group of pre-teen boys on skateboards. It was a large group, about eight or nine strong, who all seemed to be having a great time, like they would in any other suburbia. However, Isla Vista is far from the typical family-friendly environment.
Over the years, I.V. has been notorious for its students’ lifestyles. But it is also a community for families and children, a welcoming place for immigrants (Isla Vista’s first language is Spanish for the growing population), and a harbor for cyclists, surfers, skateboarders, and runners. I.V. houses nearly 200 senior citizens at Friendship Manor. This mishmash of visitors and residents gives Isla Vista the social dynamic that makes it one of a kind.
Case Study:I recently interviewed the Dents, who have lived in Isla Vista for 14 years, and who revealed that the rolling beaches, quaint parks, friendly atmosphere, and abundance of restaurants to satisfy kid munchies makes I.V. a wonderful place to raise children. “It is also a great place for kids because they can get around on bicycles,” said Kit Dent, father, and owner of Isla Vista Bicycles. The Dent family began in downtown Santa Barbara and soon after moved to Isla Vista to save on rent while still remaining on the South Coast. Over the past 12 years, the Dent family has raised four children-one of them a UCSB grad-on the 66 block of Sueno Road.
The Dents have also witnessed unusual incidents that come with this chaotic territory. Like car-tipping. Dorothy described waking up late at night, alarmed, and saying, “What’s that noise?” Come to find out, their car had been tipped over-so that it was upside down-right in front of their home. Immediately, the family called the Isla Vista Police Department, whose officers found “a really big man” around the corner who looked suspicious. The officers “engaged the suspect to come back to the home and tip the car back over,” Dorothy said. The IVPD has been helpful by “biking and engaging with community,” Dorothy pointed out. “They are doing a really great job dealing with rowdy people out there.”
Families also rely heavily on fellow I.V. residents to ensure the safety of their homes, property, and children. For example, Dorothy recalled the time “a drunk guy was driving on the wrong side of the road, taking out cars as he drove. He was about to run into more cars, but the guy across the street turned out to be an EMT [emergency medical technician],” who immediately came out to help and was able to persuade the driver to stop, thanks perhaps to experience in dealing with alcohol-poisoned patients.
Community involvement has greatly reduced vandalism and other crime in recent years, That is not to say that the town is immune from the need for law enforcement, but most of the time, Dorothy said, people from out of town commit the assaults and vandalism. “It detracts from regular people living here.” As for the amount of partying that goes on, she has noticed that it fluctuates from year to year. “I love music not in middle night.”
With so much disruption, why live in Isla Vista? The chaos of I.V. can actually be beneficial for children to witness. “The greatest thing we have seen in I.V. happened on 4th of July quite a few years ago,” said Dorothy, “when a rocket that came off of DP [Del Playa Avenue] shot off the wrong way and landed on a neighbor’s roof, which caught on fire.” The fire department came right way and the most memorable part about the experience was that “my four-year-old daughter got to see a firewoman put out the flames.” Isla Vista’s thickly populated atmosphere serves as a “life 101” crash course for children.
Another positive to living in I.V. is that children have free access to over 20 parks encompassing 50 acres. Estero Park’s outdoor basketball court, playing field, Frisbee golf course, and playground are just a few of the many features that gives this park family appeal. My personal favorite is Tierra de Fortuna, a park located at the end of Fortuna Street, on the way to Sands beach, notable for its secluded location and stegosaurus jungle gym.
What Are Students’ Takes on Families in I.V.?: “It would suck to be a family in I.V.,” exclaimed a friend of mine who is a senior at UCSB. But in reality, aren’t we all one big family in Isla Vista? After four years of living here, Isla Vista is truly the place I call home. I’ve made life-long friends, learned about myself as an adult, expanded my mind at school, been inspired by co-workers, and met my amazing boyfriend. Home is where the heart is; home is Isla Vista.