The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allocate $100,000 in community block grants towards a project improving street lighting in Isla Vista during yesterday’s meeting.
The project, which constitutes the first phase of a four-phase plan for lighting improvement, includes the replacement of current street lights with brighter and more energy efficient LED bulbs along Del Playa Drive, Sabado Tarde Road, Trigo Road and Pasado Road between Camino Corto and Embarcadero Del Mar. According to Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Rhandy Siordia, this area was targeted as the county’s highest priority due to the high volume of crimes that occur on these blocks.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said funding was given due to the county’s longstanding concern with the correlation between lighting and public safety issues in I.V. Farr said plans for the project have existed since she first came into office, and said it is part of a comprehensive assignment aimed at not only improving lighting but also filling out missing pieces of sidewalk.
Farr said the project reemerged after UCSB Associated Students, Take Back The Night and various other women’s groups collaborated with the county to gather information about unsafe conditions in areas lacking adequate lighting.
“Associated Students took it one step further and took leadership on walking the community, mapping where the lights were [and] where they were dim, and they formed a partnership at my office,” Farr said. “There have been some weeks where a bunch of us met at up at dusk and got in vans and drove around Isla Vista when it was dark, so we could see what street lights were working, which were dim and which weren’t working first-hand.”
According to Siordia, the lighting issue has gained a great deal of publicity among the community due to the widespread distribution of crime emergency alerts sent out by local law enforcement. Siordia, who said higher crime rates often exist on I.V.’s darker streets, also said that numerous students from a range of UCSB organizations spoke during the public comment period at yesterday’s meeting, voicing their concerns regarding the safety of I.V. residents.
According to Farr, areas with the highest amount of crime — such as DP, Sabado Tarde Road and Trigo Road — will be assessed during the first phase of the lighting project.
“So we went ahead and put in an application for Community Block Grant funding for $100,000 — which was approved today — to kick off an effort to start in the highest priority areas to change out all the existing bulbs and make it brighter,” Farr said.
The county also plans to work with university officials and development agencies to install new streetlights along Camino Corto and other streets with minimal or no lighting, Farr said.
“We will continue to ask for Community Block Grant money next year and the following year to finish out the rest of the community, either with brighter bulbs or by putting in new light poles,” Farr said.
The improvement of IV lighting will benefit students who walk, skateboard or bike in the neighborhood late at night, according to Farr, who said the county hopes to see I.V. gain a more attractive appearance and have its crime rates drop.
“It’ll make it look like it should — a well tended, attractive community,” Farr said. “It will help others’ opinion of the community, it will help property value.”