In an ideal scenario, a monster 8.3 earthquake would roar out of a dormant fault line in the Santa Barbara Channel and reduce Isla Vista to rubble.
This monster quake would also generate a 75-foot tsunami bouncing between the Channel Islands and Del Playa like a cannonball in a kiddie pool. The torrent of seawater would be the final enema for this vernal pool of degenerate children and struggling minorities, most of whom landed in Isla Vista by no fault of their own.
But we have no ideal scenarios, and of course, the reality is much, much worse. No tsunamis are coming to cleanse the old Chumash land, just a crew of developers with some newfangled ideas for the most depraved housing experiment east of the Mississippi.
I’ve been talking to Isla Vistans about Isla Vista for longer than most reporters should and they disappoint me almost every time. For every activist who knows their stuff, 100 fools spout off about how, “The landlords need to be evicted, man!” or “These rotten kids shouldn’t be able to vote.”
Regardless of whether the I.V. resident is white, brown, drunken – or in my case, a unique combination of the three – they fail to grasp the basic dynamics that govern this bizarre settlement.
Isla Vista isn’t a city, and it’s not a town. It’s just this freaky little corner of a massive Santa Barbara County, stretching from Ventura to SLO. Once upon a time, a bunch of crazy hippies tried to make I.V. a real city, but they failed honorably and moved away. Every cityhood attempt since the hippies has also failed and I.V. will never be a city for a few reasons.
Almost all Isla Vistans rent, and as a voting power, they are swallowed up by the vastness of the county. If I.V. were its own city, the mutant voting block of college kids and immigrants could do horrible things like control their rent and ban law enforcement from bothering stoners and alcoholics. This is as close to a nightmare as most politicians, or shitholelords, get.
Note: I refuse to call the owners of I.V. “landlords” because the term gives them some weird semiotic power. Realistically, they are shitholelords and should be required by law to hold that title until their buildings meet some reasonable code for decency. Then, and only then, could they legally change their title from shitholelord to overpriced-closetlord.
Anyway, a city of I.V. would equal “Power to the People,” and the Man is not very down with that. What the Man is down with is redevelopment. This is a catchword for local governments’ attempt to fix something they screwed up long ago.
See, Isla Vista started back in the ’50s when a few, very smart, white men realized beachside property next to a UC college was going to be worth bank. When Santa Barbara County drew up plans for I.V., the smart, white men made sure it could fit as many rich-ass college students as possible in a three-quarter square mile. “All they come with is a surfboard and some clothes,” said the developers, and then promptly doomed the town to the density of a Palestinian refugee camp.
There is no parking in I.V. because businessmen 50 years ago didn’t think 20,000 people would be bringing Land Rovers in addition to their surfboards and swimsuits. Isla Vistans live in small, rundown shitholes because that’s what they zoned them to be.
It used to be a lot worse. Kids in 1970 used the rocks that made up every yard to pelt National Guardsmen who were going house to house beating heads. Ask any old timer who was here when the feces hit the fan, and they’ll tell you it’s nicer here with the parks and the community centers. These are not senile meanderings – the color green prevents riots and is soothing to the medulla oblongata.
The worst thing about change in I.V. is that it’s so cyclical. This isn’t the first time the county has decided it has some extra money to treat the open sore of the South Coast. They tried in the early ’90s, nothing happened, and I’m not holding my breath this time around. Remember, this is a town that paves its roads 10 years too late. Cynicism isn’t my problem, reality is.
But despite the funk, the mayhem and the cops, I love I.V. It comes from being a fan of imperfection. I’m just not interested in antiseptic cul-de-sacs with crappy names like Peaceful Court and Darling Drive. My young blood prefers the stank and the funk of Sabado Tarde 10 minutes after 2 a.m. when you have an equal chance of fighting or fucking, depending on the strangers you run into.
My tsunami scenario comes back to mind because it would be a good way for this shining I.V. to check out – sudden and tragic, like James Dean in his Porsche. The more plausible scenario is a slow descent into mediocrity as this Valhalla’s soul erodes with the sandstone cliffs, but I remain optimistic.
There’s always global warming and a corresponding rise in sea level.
David Downs is taking several books home with him over Thanksgiving to fool his parents into thinking he’s getting edumacated. His apocalyptic columns appears every Wednesday, tsunami be dammed.