Supervisor Laura Capps discussed her eight-point plan to improve safety at Isla Vista's bluffs to a small group on Friday, February 23, 2024, as Jonathan Abboud of the IVCSD looks on. | Credit: Margaux Lovely

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Laura Capps held an open meeting in Isla Vista on Friday to field questions from students, parents, and community members about the progress of her eight-point bluff safety plan. The discussion was strategically held at Sea Lookout Park, where construction workers were actively building the new six-foot-tall fence that Capps promised as a part of this plan.

One parent among the small gathering wanted to know who to contact if there was an incident. That and related information was given to residents in a pamphlet from I.V.’s Community Services District (IVCSD) that was dropped at doors before big events. Jonathan Abboud, general manager for IVCSD, applauded Capps’s plan, saying, “This is the fastest and most effective I’ve seen the county be.”

Jordan Killebrew, Santa Barbara City College’s executive director of Public Affairs and Communications and a former aide to Capps, echoed this sentiment, saying the execution of this plan was “lightning-fast” and had lots of “energy behind it.”

Capps’s plan, passed in November 2023, will continue to build higher fences, implement increased lighting and signage, and push for public restrooms on Del Playa Drive. It was developed after the death of 19-year-old Santa Barbara City College student Benjamin Schurmer, who fell from the bluffs last September.

“It’s too much a part of I.V. life that people fall off of cliffs,” emphasized Capps. “And I guarantee if you said that to anyone outside of this area, they would look at you like you’re crazy.” These tragedies are nothing new to Isla Vista residents, with 13 cliff-related deaths occurring in the past 20 years and an even larger number of falls.

Capps also walked through the new Social Host Ordinance, which, as of February 10, gives Isla Vista Foot Patrol and other law enforcement agencies more jurisdiction over when to shut down out-of-hand parties. Most notably, law enforcement can now shut down a party if anyone is climbing over fences onto the bluffs, charging entrance fees to parties, or if there are more than 250 attendees in one residential property.

Jeff Lindgren of Santa Barbara County Parks and Recreation also spoke, highlighting the safety features of the new fence as well as plans for new horticulture both at Sea Lookout and Walter Capps Park. The native prickly plants are meant to discourage people from climbing over the tall fences closer to the bluffs. “By spring they’ll be in pretty good shape,” Lindgren said.

“I think we’re doing pretty well,” added Capps. “But I do live in daily fear that we’re not moving fast enough before another tragedy occurs.”

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