I feel it is important to clearly state what action the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors took this week and to describe the two ordinances that were adopted.
First, the Board of Supervisors accepted a report from the Isla Vista Community Safety Working Group. The working group is made up of representatives from the university, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., Santa Barbara City College and the 3rd District. This group was formed in response to the rising violence in Isla Vista. Over 260 assaults or fights were reported in 2001, as well as over 29 rapes or attempted rapes in the past year. In total, Isla Vista accounts for 18 percent of the Part One crimes in Santa Barbara County.
Over the last several months, the working group has developed initiatives that, taken in combination, should help make Isla Vista a safer place to live, work and go to school. They reported on three main components of their plan: environment, education and enforcement.
The enforcement component has received some publicity after the Board of Supervisors adopted the public urination ordinance and a community safety ordinance. The public urination ordinance was obviously necessary. The fines are now lower than the previous ordinance, and it also gives the courts the option to offer community service in lieu of paying the $100 fine.
The community safety ordinance is designed to address the large, open parties that present a safety hazard to the community. If three or more violations of unsafe behavior are observed, then deputies are allowed to disperse the crowd. Citations will not be issued to the party host. Participants of the party would only receive a citation if they refuse to leave the party.
It is as simple as that. Have a safe party; enjoy yourselves.
Another option that was under consideration was to turn back the clock on the noise ordinance from midnight to 10 p.m. on both the weeknights and weekends. In addition, it was also suggested that the Halloween ordinance, which is even more restrictive, be extended year-round. I opposed both proposals.
I think the current noise ordinance is a very good compromise. Everyone has a clear understanding of the rules, and it generally works well, particularly during the week. It is going to be up to the community to be responsible.
The environmental component is the obvious physical improvements we have seen take place in I.V. over the last year, which include the repaved roads, the added sidewalks and the existing streetlights replaced with brighter light bulbs. There are also program changes that are now in place, such as the Isla Vista Housing Inspection Program, the enhanced recycling programs throughout I.V. and the current I.V. Master Plan effort that is a general plan update for the Isla Vista/UCSB community.
The educational component is more subtle. The working group reported that they are developing alternative events in the community to build on the success of several free block parties and the Halloween festival sponsored by the I.V. Recreation and Parks District.
I held three town hall meetings in Isla Vista on this issue. We mailed notices to our extensive mailing lists, took out two display ads in the Daily Nexus to help publicize the meetings and spent time with the news reporters before and after the meetings to make sure the story would contain consistent information for the public.
There is no one single solution. The efforts presented to the Board of Supervisors this week are the result of balancing the need to make Isla Vista safer with the need to respect I.V.’s unique character and the rights of all its residents and visitors.
Gail Marshall is Santa Barbara County’s 3rd District Supervisor.