Orange construction fence quickly went up at coastal parks along Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista last month, the first safety project to be funded by a new pot of money donated in the wake of May’s mass murder.
UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County officials felt compelled to act after the stabbings and shootings that claimed the lives of six students living in the community adjacent to campus, and erecting temporary fencing ahead of graduation was a safety measure that could produce instant results — protecting students from all-too frequent cliff falls.
UCSB footed the $21,000 installation bill from its Student Safety Enhancement Fund designed to address “immediate and emerging safety concerns” affecting UCSB students on campus and in Isla Vista.
About a month later, Isla Vista residents or visitors have already torn down significant portions of temporary fencing — all while county officials and stakeholders contemplate what a permanent solution should look like.
Getting students to take ownership of Isla Vista has long been a struggle in the densely populated community, and the most recent tragedy — coupled with violence that broke out at April’s Deltopia street party — has brought needed attention.
Building upon the sense of unity that followed, the university created the safety fund, along with the UCSB Santa Barbara Community Fund, to award scholarships in the names of victims and a Trustee Chancellor’s Assistance Fund so trustees can more flexibly respond to needs ranging from immediate student support to long-term plans for oversight in Isla Vista.
Funding public safety projects on non-university property isn’t new, according to university spokeswoman Shelly Leachman.
She cited road improvements such as the construction of El Colegio Road and the approximately $1.5 million UCSB contributes annually to the county to support policing efforts and fire services.
UCSB also committed $2 million toward future infrastructure improvements in IV as a part of its Long Range Development Plan, $220,000 to the county to finish an IV lighting project and $9,000 to install temporary video cameras during Deltopia.
What’s less clear is who decides how the new safety fund money is spent.
Leachman said projects would be identified through a collaboration of Administrative Services and Student Affairs.
“In particular, the Student Safety Enhancement Fund is intended to provide additional resources for campus safety and policing, such as fencing, lighting and increased patrols,” she said. “The fund may be used for anything that improves the overall quality of life on campus and bolsters student safety.”
Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lt. Rob Plastino said last week that he had no knowledge of the safety fund, and wasn’t sure if extra funds were heading to patrols.
The fund did not pay for five new UCSB police officers, which was a commitment the university made after Deltopia but before the shootinsg, according to university spokesman George Foulsham.
Leachman called the new funds “vehicles” that enable supporters who reached out from within and outside UCSB after the shootings.
More than 200 individuals have donated, although Leachman would not say how much was raised.
“We are extremely grateful to our generous alumni, donors and local businesses that have already made gifts,” she said. “The university encourages anyone interested in supporting UC Santa Barbara in these efforts to partner with us to ensure the safety of our campus and surrounding community.”
The safety fund could be the good that comes out of terrible tragedy, said Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents Isla Vista.
Farr helped secure $85,000 in recent county budget hearings to complete a lighting project she has worked on with students the past two years to install new LED lighting on Camino Corto, Estero Road, Camino Majorca and other areas.
UCSB’s recent commitment went a long way to add 39 new light poles to the 155 already installed, to be completed in the spring of 2015.
“Having this increased attention — and hopefully funding — means we’ll be able to implement sooner,” Farr said. “The university always has been an important partner in all these efforts. I think it’s not only good to have UC administration involved but now faculty groups and alumni association groups. Clearly now we are really working hard to make improvements as fast as possible.”
Sidewalks and permanent fencing will be added at to-be-determined dates, hopefully with more financial assistance from UCSB, Farr said.
She listed couch-burning, alcohol and drug abuse, housing and precautions taken for future Halloween and Deltopia as other safety issues.
“We all really care about Isla Vista,” Farr said. “We’ve made some progress. There’s a lot left to do, but I’m optimistic.”
Students often ask UCSB administration to get involved or help fund safety projects in IV to varying success, said Beatrice Contreras, a fourth-year student and Associated Students external vice president of local affairs.
Contreras said trustees recently created an IV steering committee to explore what changes could be made, and the university pledged to continue funding fencing.
The fact that fencing was vandalized says a lot about what students want, she said, noting friends expressed concern that taller fence blocked ocean views.
Contreras said Associated Students wants to host more community events and to collaborate with law enforcement.
“It’s really kind of sad that it took something so sad and so tragic to bring the community together, but I’m glad we’ve been able to come together,” she said. “After everything else that’s happened this year, it’s a great opportunity for us to do a lot of work and set some groundwork for the coming years.”