The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

New fencing regulation prompts IV property owner attention amid death

Santa Barbara County cannot retroactively change fence heights for owners
Angel Corzo
The cliffs along the 66 block of Del Playa Drive revealing the foundation of residential properties on Friday, May 10 in Isla Vista, Calif. The county reinstitute cut backs for houses that reach a maximum distance of 10 feet from the overhang.

The cliffs of Isla Vista, California, have been the scene of 14 identified deaths in the past 30 years. In an attempt to prevent these fatalities, the county has approved a minimum requirement of 6-foot fencing along the oceanside of Del Playa Drive.

The most recent death of Jacob Parker in April has raised awareness of current Isla Vista property fencing that still meets the original height of 3.5 feet.

“I was there when he fell,” said Jack Javier, a close friend of Parker. “If the second post behind the initial fence was like a foot higher, he could’ve survived.”

According to County Supervisor Laura Capps, the county cannot retroactively make changes to existing properties; only new properties along the cliffs and those with permits to conduct construction are subject to the required higher fencing. 

The county, however, is subsidizing the process of implementing additional fencing by paying the permits needed by property owners, according to Capps.

“You can’t just let human behavior fix itself sometimes, you have to design [fences] in a way to make things safer,” said Jonathan Abboud, Isla Vista Community Service District (IVCSD) general manager, and City College Trustee president.

Aside from obtaining the permit to change fence heights, property owners may pay a couple thousand dollars depending on the size of an oceanside balcony, according to Capps. 

“Sometimes permit processing times could be an obstacle, but that’s not really on the property owner,” Abboud said. “If they just turn in the permit, eventually it’ll get approved.”

Capps says that the California Coastal Commission, an agency that controls the state’s coastline, is not hindering the county’s new regulation. 

Joaquín Pérez, Parker’s close friend and an Isla Vista resident, urged property owners to prioritize the installation of higher fencing in residential areas of Isla Vista where people congregate and are most tempted to go over fencing.

The rugged coastline off of Del Playa Drive on Friday, May 10 in Isla Vista, Calif. Residents and visitors of the unincorporated city can view balconies and houses along the cliff from the beaches below. (Angel Corzo)

“At these parties, you can’t really go to the bathroom,” Pérez said. “And obviously, it’s not the right idea, but a lot of people take a piss. They hop the fence and take a piss.”

According to Capps, the installment of a light sensor for people close to the edge of the bluffs could possibly prevent them from taking any further course of action before deciding to hop over fences. Additionally, Capps says the county is also working on funding for permanent bathrooms along Del Playa. 

Matthew Strzepek, a local resident and former San Luis Obispo city council candidate, advocated against the higher fencing in order to preserve Isla Vista’s scenic bluffs.  

“People aren’t really jumping the fences to urinate or do pranks, that’s just sort of misleading information,” Strzepek said. “People don’t really have much incentive to climb these fences, and it just seems like we’re putting up a barrier that is going to disconnect us from nature.”

According to Abboud, the IVCSD works to establish connections with property managers in Isla Vista by inviting them to attend meetings hosted by UCSB and I.V. Safe.

“The property management companies, for the most part, actually stay in touch with [IVCSD] pretty well,” Abboud said. “Wolfe and Sierra and Meridian, and even Playa Life; all those [companies] we do have a line of communication with.”

According to Abboud, however, the independent Isla Vista property owners unassociated with larger companies are the hardest to get in contact with.

Nonetheless, Abboud hopes for Isla Vista property owners to make these changes for the public good while he and the IVCSD continue to spread awareness of bluff safety by conducting door-to-door talks, distributing informational brochures, and updating their social media and website. 

IVCSD is also working with local promoters and bands in order to host more official night-life events in Isla Vista, with the hope of reducing turnout within chaotic and unsafe house parties, according to Abboud. 

 “These bluffs are beautiful; it’s fun to partake in them, especially, you know, in this beautiful setting of UCSB,” Capps said. “But they are quite dangerous.”

Story continues below advertisement
More to Discover