The county’s ill-timed survey of the Isla Vista bluffs is leaving many residents stuck between two of the galaxy’s most formidable opponents: the eroding force of the Pacific Ocean and local government.

Alerting the public to forthcoming danger is responsible. Discovering the danger, doodling around for a summer and then – when the timing couldn’t possibly be worse – finally alerting them to action is, well, pretty ridiculous.

The decision to evacuate the buildings should have been a joint effort between the county and the landlords. The plight of clifftop properties has been an issue for years. Erosion happens over time – shouldn’t the county have had the courtesy to follow suit?

There’s no doubt that the prospect of several DP homes crumbling into the Pacific Ocean is enough to scare any tenant living within the danger zone into leaving. But at a time when school is mere days away from starting, most leases have been signed, and vacancies that compare to the perks of oceanside DP living are few and far between, it is a wonder why the county waited so long to give residents and landlords the heads-up.

The owners of the affected buildings have 30 days to appeal the decision and gather their own team of geological experts to deem the properties safe and the county’s assessment bogus. Otherwise, it’s eviction time – a likely prospect since the county can’t possibly review the landlords’ counter-assessments before Sept. 27.

No matter what happens, the tenants are stuck with either finding a new place to live or remaining in a home that has been deemed hazardous by county officials but safe by their rent-check-receiving landlords. Talk about lose-lose.

However, with better organization, carefully planned timing and collaboration between all parties involved, the situation needn’t have been so dire. Had the alert come just a few months earlier – because let’s face it, it’s no secret DP was falling into the ocean – the county could have either prevented landlords from offering new leases for the 2004-05 academic year or given property owners enough time to make repairs. The county would have upheld its responsibility to maintain public safety without pissing off 150 people.

Instead, some I.V. tenants will probably be saying goodbye to beachside balconies and party proximity, and saying hello to the Daily Nexus classifieds.