A few weeks ago Alex Markus, my fellow Eye on I.V. columnist, wrote about an unusual human grouping found in Isla Vista: the family. Many any students may have been surprised to discover that there are people who make I.V. their permanent, rather than their transitional, residence. There are quite a few adults, older than 22, living in I.V. There are even children.
The fact is that there are artists, professors, psychologists, and librarians who love living in I.V. Sure, they talk about the party noise, the trash, or the fact that their neighbor set up a skateboard ramp right outside their house, where they hear the boom of the skateboard hitting the wooden boards again and again and again. But still they don’t leave. The question you may be asking yourself is: Why? Why would anyone, who isn’t a student, choose to live in Isla Vista?
There isn’t an easy answer. It isn’t because there’s cheap housing. There isn’t. The rents in I.V. are fairly expensive. An average four-bedroom might rent for $4,000 or more. And houses don’t sell for bargain prices. Even when the prices of houses were dropping all over the Santa Barbara area, I.V. property didn’t take a big hit. Maybe it’s because people recognize the value of investing in property which will be in demand as long as there are students at UCSB.
Since it’s not the cheap housing, or the pristine streets, or the peace and quiet, I decided to come up with my own list of reasons.
1. The Beaches: The beaches are some of the most beautiful and deserted in the Santa Barbara area. On many days you can head down to Devereux, Sands, or Campus Point, and be one of a few people on the beach. For surfers, these are ideal spots when the swell rolls in. You can also surf without the crowds found at some other popular spots.
2. The Bike Paths: The bike paths provide a multitude of ways to get exercise and see terrific scenery. One of my favorite treks starts at Storke and El Colegio Roads, meanders through UCSB, and ends up at Campus Point. There’s nothing like watching the sunset while perched up on the bluffs overlooking the ocean. If you want to go the opposite way you can bike toward Ellwood, and spend some time practicing BMX jumps at what people call “Africa.”
3. Downtown I.V.: The downtown area has been gentrified by the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency. While the facelift was controversial, I think the result is attractive. Take a trip to downtown I.V. at night and you’ll get a truly picturesque view replete with palm trees and nice lighting. Sure it’s uniform, and not completely unique, but it is a nice place to have an evening meal, or drink.
4. UCSB Arts & Lectures: I.V.’s proximity to UCSB allows residents to take advantage of the great Arts & Lectures programs. High culture is just a short walk away. If you don’t want to go to a play, concert, or the like, there’s even a movie theater in I.V., the Magic Lantern.
5. The Shops: There are quite a few unique and funky shops in I.V. A recent find was the Keg ‘n Bottle, a small market with a treasure trove of alcohol. It has two refrigerated rows of beer from all over the world, and what is known to locals as the “Great Wall of Liquor.” I couldn’t look at the wall for too long, however; the selection was so overwhelming.
6. The Innovators: Many UCSB students and graduates go on to make a difference, or become famous. We have some of these in the area right now. Jay Ferro, owner of Silvergreens and the Nutricate creator. Jack Johnson, a popular musician, is also a former UCSB student. Paul Orfala, who founded Kinko’s right here in I.V.-and, with the millions of dollars he ultimately made from that little enterprise, went on to establish the Orfalea Foundation and the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at UCSB.
7. The Wetlands: Take a look at the wetlands after a rain. All of a sudden an area that looked like an empty park will be filled with ponds and tons of birds. You can see and hear the ducks and geese as they fly overhead. It’s an incredible sight.
8. The Birds: Isla Vista is a bird lover’s paradise. One of the best places to see both common and unusual species is in the Coal Oil Point Reserve. Snowy plovers, sandpipers, and herons are some of the residents.
9. The Sports Teams: UCSB offers a wide variety of sports events. There is soccer, basketball, water polo, and baseball, to name a few. Even if you’re not a diehard Gaucho fan, you can find yourself getting wrapped up in the excitement. Try a game at the Thunderdome if you’re in the need of a basketball fix. That’s what I do.
10. The Vibe: This is harder to describe. It’s the students, and the long time residents, and the visitors.
When you talk about I.V. some people “get it” and some people don’t. From the first time I sat out in front of Sam’s to Go and had a beer, I knew that I liked it. I didn’t notice the dirt, or the trash, or anything else. I still remember the first time I saw Devereux. The trees overlooking Sands are imprinted in my memory.
For the people who decide to make I.V. their home, the pros far outweigh the cons. I’m not saying I.V. is for everyone. It’s not. But for people who are willing to overlook some of the irritations, it’s a true paradise.