It doesn’t take long for UCSB newbies to learn that Del Playa Drive, commonly known as “DP,” is the party street in Isla Vista.
They might also hear, however, that the houses that face the beautiful panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean are built on unstable cliffs which could crumble at any minute, sending the party house of a college student’s dreams into the salty brine forever. That’s not true.
“As far as we’re able to determine right now, there are no houses that are in danger,” said I.V. Supervising Building Inspector Ken Forman, dispelling the myth that oceanside DP houses are houseboats-to-be, likely to topple before the end of the next rainy season.
“For the most part, if a house is in danger right now then we have an engineering evaluation done, and based on the evaluation, we make the necessary corrections,” Forman said. “As the bluffs retreat we do inspections and we notify owners as the retreat impacts the houses.”
After the wet weather in early springtime, building inspectors do a thorough visual examination of all the structures on the edge of the bluff, Forman said. They determine the impact of the erosion upon the structures, most of which are well-suited to withstand the elements.
“If [the eroding edge of the bluffs] gets too close, we have the property owner do an engineering evaluation of what necessary corrections need to be done to maintain the quality of the structure,” he said. “We try to keep a heads up in the situation and address them before they become problems.”
DP resident Daniel Lipscomb said he was still concerned about the severity of the erosion beneath his home.
“They just had someone come by to look at the balcony,” Lipscomb said. “There’s two or three or four feet of our balcony hanging over the bluff, but they said that the erosion would just move faster if the balcony was taken back. It’s pretty bad.”
Lipscomb also said he has seen other houses that were worse.
“There’s places on the 6700 block [of DP] where there’s 15 or 20 feet hanging over,” he said.
This year, inspector s will also check whether buildings are in compliance with a new mandatory three-foot fence rule that went into effect on Sept. 11, 2001. Assistant 3rd District Supervisor Mark Chaconas said the fences were a precautionary measure.
“Supervisor [Gail] Marshall initiated ‘required adequate fencing’ along decks,” he said. “The rule was designed to mirror a similar ordinance for second- and third-story balconies. It’s a warning that you’re reaching the end [of the deck], but it’s not tall enough to impede the view, because, after all, it is the Pacific Ocean and people like to gaze out at it.”
In November 2001, UCSB junior business economics major Jeffrey Cronin spent his 21st birthday in the hospital after sustaining severe injuries when he fell from the cliff of a house on the 6500 block of DP. Cronin’s blood-alcohol level at the time was .39 – nearly five times the legal limit. Chaconas said the fences would not deter extraordinarily drunken people.
“If you’re that drunk, you’re going to go,” Chaconas said. “Now there’s a good warning.”
Most homes on DP do have the fences installed, Forman said.
“I would say that there are 85 or so houses on the bluff, and there’s probably 90 percent compliance. We’re pretty close to where we need to be,” he said.
Forman said building inspectors are a valuable resource for concerned tenants living on DP and throughout I.V.
“If they were concerned with the bluff or substandard housing or leaky roofs or a defective heater or plumbing that does not function properly, they can call us and we can do something about it,” he said.
Forman also said that tenants should not fear retribution from their property managers for reporting infractions.
“If it’s a violation, we get the situation corrected. State laws prohibit the owners from evicting tenants if they file a complaint. It’s the law.”
The Office of the Building Inspector can be reached at 685-0913.