Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District board members will negotiate a no-camping ordinance at their meeting Thursday night – a law they assumed already existed under Santa Barbara County law.
For over 10 years, the IVRPD and IslaVista Foot Patrol have been functioning under the assumption that the county ordinance prohibiting camping and sleeping on county property includes the I.V. District parks. However, on Feb. 7, the IVRPD said they discovered the county law applies only to county-owned property, which means the 25 IVRPD-owned local parks are excluded.
Starting Jan. 27, the I.V. homeless stationed themselves in tents in Anisq’Oyo’ Park in protest of a lack of living space, and many were issued citations by the I.V. Foot Patrol for violating the ordinance that does not exist.
IVFP Lt. Russ Birchim said the foot patrol was surprised when they found out they had been unlawfully ticketing the homeless for sleeping in the park.
“I have never dealt with something like this before. I have to give the homeless credit. They’re not doing any in-your-face stuff. They’re keeping a low profile,” Birchim said.
The IVRPD has released a staff report suggesting they now pass an ordinance similar to the one in Santa Barbara County.
In 1978, the county evicted I.V. campers from an area known as Tipi Village, which was located on the 6700 block of Sueno Road, because the county said the area violated health and zoning ordinances. Although IVRPD administrators knew county camping and sleeping ordinances did not apply to the privately owned property, the county was able to convince the campers to leave. Since then, the IVRPD has purchased the land.
“The institutional history of this practice was lost during the changes in administration over the past 10 years. New administrators and law enforcement incorrectly assumed that the county’s ordinance applied to District parks,” said the IVRPD staff report.
“I don’t know how they can begin to fix what has already been done. How do you make a right out of something gone really wrong?” senior film studies major and homeless advocate Theresa Dang said. “I want to know who did not take the time to do the research to make sure that this law was in the books before subjecting these people to jail time and citations.”
If the park ordinance is passed Tuesday night, it will allow the Isla Vista Foot Patrol to implement citations to campers in violation. Birchim said he didn’t know how the IVRPD was going to deal with addressing fines and citations given that were not covered by district law.
“I don’t know what the majority of the board will say, but if they enact an ordinance, we’ll enforce it,” said Birchim. “If the homeless would like to pursue a campground, I would like to see them go about doing it legally and responsibly. Consistently butting heads with the Sheriff’s office is not going to work.”