Most current residents don’t even know that Isla Vista has a history, let alone a rich and fascinating one.
But Wednesday, April 18, is the 31st anniversary of one of the town’s most tragic events – the shooting of UCSB student Kevin Moran as he was trying to put out a fire on the steps of the Bank of America building on Embarcadero del Norte.
Two months earlier, students and other local residents had chased the police out of I.V. and burned that building to the ground. The National Guard and Los Angeles SWAT Team soon occupied the town and workers began rebuilding the bank. The police first claimed a sniper had shot Kevin, even issuing a description of the shooter. It took several days for them to admit that one of their own had shot him “accidentally.”
That gruesome spring culminated on June 10, when police tear-gassed a crowd of a thousand who had gathered in I.V.’s Perfect Park to protest continuing police brutality in the community. Nearly 400 of these peaceful demonstrators were arrested that day and hauled off to the Santa Barbara County Jail. In the meantime, police rampaged through the town, dragging people out of their apartments into the street. Some young women claimed they were sexually assaulted by the police during these events.
The several studies that followed that spirited winter and spring uniformly blamed the university and the county for having created a campus town that was (and remains) 96 percent renters – with a density unmatched in the western United States – and landlord-favoring zoning regulations not permitted anywhere else in the state.
When you think about it, I.V. isn’t that much different today, except there’s a lot more trees that tend to mask the 34 percent of the town that’s been paved over. Still, the university has become more positively involved in I.V. and the county seems to be more in tune with the community in recent years. Of course, the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District has made the biggest difference; there was only one park in I.V. before the community voters created IVRPD in 1972. And these three organizations are combining to create an $84-million master plan that could dramatically improve the quality of life for future residents.
But there was a whole lot more going on in Isla Vista in the ’70s than the middle-class authors of the 1970-post mortems captured. There was the vicious war in Viet Nam, which drafted 18-year-olds at a time one had to be 21 to be eligible to vote. There was the music – the Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and many more; a new hit song about rebellion and revolution seemed to come out every week. And there was the marijuana and psychedelics that made all consumers Enemies of the State.
These are the factors that combined to create the outrage and the courage to attack the bank building (the largest symbol of corporate America in town) and sit still while being beaten and tear-gassed.
The events of that era sparked an intense period of community building in I.V. that saw the creation of the I.V. Medical Clinic, Food Co-op, Youth Projects and, of course, the Recreation and Parks District.
Besides these lasting institutions, there is a plaque to Kevin Moran at the entrance to the rebuilt Bank of America building (soon to be a UCSB lecture hall). Soon there will be a memorial to the peace movement of the Viet Nam War era in Perfect Park – a perfect spot. A design for this monument has been selected and $12,500 in private contributions, of the $17,500 needed to erect it, has already been raised.
To find out more about Isla Vista during this era, check out www.islavista.org to find out more about how you can hasten the construction of the Perfect Park Peace Monument. Also, check out the link on the I.V. Park District’s website at www.silcom.com/~ivpark/
The Perfect Park Monument Committee is a local group made up of community members.