Ocean-side Del Playa Drive houses must now have at least three-foot-high fences on both balcony and ground-level patios, as mandated by a county ordinance passed on September 11.

Mark Chaconas, 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall’s assistant, said the ordinance is a result of two unrelated deaths which occurred last March when individuals fell off cliffs on Del Playa — even though those locations had fences.

“Gail asked the building and fire department to look into what we could do, what kind of ordinance could be written. There’s no state law on ground-level protection, only for balconies, so we asked them to write an ordinance to require fences at ground level,” he said. “We found in the assessment that a number of the fences are in need of repair – they had gaps in them. Now, the property has to be fenced off in its entirety.”

Ken Forman, supervising building inspector for Santa Barbara County, said when the ocean-side Del Playa houses were originally constructed they were “slab on grade,” meaning there was bluff which extended beyond the ground-level patio. Now, because of bluff erosion, many Del Playa patios lay close to the cliff.

According to Forman, most property owners who own ocean-side Del Playa property are in compliance with the fencing ordinance.

“The ordinance passed on the 11th of September. Most property owners are already complying. Those who are not will have six months before the requirement comes into effect,” he said.

The ordinance is for residential properties adjacent to the bluff only and does not include parks, Forman said.

“The parks aren’t used like the housing properties, where people are congregated at night. Parks are usually used during the day,” he said. “With the activities that sometimes take place on the ocean-front properties, you have a large congregation of people at night and some of them are unfamiliar with the area, which can be dangerous.”

Ron Wolfe, an Isla Vista property manager who manages buildings on Del Playa, eight of which are ocean side, said he is skeptical of the fence’s effectiveness, but will comply to help the situation.

“All of our properties were in compliance before the ordinance,” he said. “I somewhat doubt that it is going to help. The last person that fell off climbed over two fences, and they didn’t help at all. But if putting up fences might help the problem, then it’s worth it. It’s hard to not be supportive of something that might potentially help.”

Isla Vista Foot Patrol Lieutenant Russ Bircham said a fence is an effective safety precaution, but stressed the importance of responsible party hosts and guests.

“I know last year some of the kids climbed the fences, which makes any [fence] ordinance moot, but I can’t see anybody falling over a three-foot fence unless they have a mind to climb it,” he said. “I’d like to see somebody there like a designated driver who could monitor the keg and keep an eye out. With free beer, kids can wander into just about any backyard.”