On Isla Vista’s western end, well-kept single-family residences significantly outnumber houses and apartment buildings rented by student tenants.
Between Camino Corto and Camino Majorca Roads, where the waves break louder than garage bands practicing, longtime Isla Vista residents are less than one week away from an Isla Vista tradition: Halloween. While most students only experience four to five Halloweens during their UCSB careers, permanent residents of Isla Vista’s 6800 blocks have experienced decades worth of the celebrations that attract tens of thousands of college-aged partiers each year.
Down the road from the 6500 and 6600 blocks of Del Playa Drive, which draw the largest holiday crowds of drunken revelers, Eleanore Byrne lives on the 6800 block of Pasado Road.
A resident of Isla Vista for the past 16 years, she said the Halloween in Isla Vista brings with it some predictable inconveniences for the town’s long-term residents, who make up almost half of the community’s population.
“It’s people mostly looking for a parking spot so they can get out to the party,” said Byrne, whose own driveway was blocked last year by one such group of partygoers.
Byrne said she blames visitors from out of town for the majority of problems caused over Halloween weekend, and that UCSB students are more “the victims [rather] than the perpetrators” of such acts. She also said she agrees with recent university efforts to prevent the influx of out-of-town partiers by limiting access to university parking lots.
However, she said she does worry about the massive amount of alcohol local students consume.
“I think there’s just too much drinking and indecency,” Byrne said. “I hate to see the young people drink so much on Halloween and on the other nights. They’re mostly decent people, but when they’re drinking, they’re pigs.”
On the 6800 block of Sabado Tarde Road, where Nancy Roe has lived for the past 30 years, only one house has any Halloween decorations hanging – some cotton cobwebs and a big plastic spider.
Roe said her neighbors do not decorate too much anymore, and that Halloween in Isla Vista is no longer the local event that it was 15 years ago, when she and her other neighbors would stroll Del Playa Drive.
Despite the road closures, noise and traffic, she said she stays in Isla Vista each year for the trick-or-treaters.
“Their costumes are precious,” said Roe, of the 30 to 40 kids she hands candy to every year.
However, “precious” is not among the words she uses to describe the drunken antics of college-aged students during the holiday weekend.
“They urinate over our lawns and on our trees,” Roe said. “I cannot believe these young people are our coming generation.”
Like Byrne, Roe said the Isla Vista Foot Patrol is very responsive to resident calls regarding noise complaints, and that the few student renters living on the 6800 blocks are quiet, since they generally moved so far west in I.V. to get away from the noise themselves.
Roe said she expects this year’s Halloween will be rough, but that overall she does not have a problem with local students having a good time.
“The students are always very apologetic and nice,” Roes said. “We just have to deal with it.”
Several doors down on the 6800 block of Sabado Tarde, an Isla Vista resident of 35 years, who wished to remain unidentified, said he too remembers when Halloween was a more fun occasion for local permanent residents, who used to mingle among student partiers and throw their own parties.
Since the early 1990’s, however, when huge Halloween celebrations in Isla Vista began attracting national magazine coverage, he said out-of-town revelers ruined the local celebration.
“Then we had 30,000 people out here,” he said. “It was an absolute zoo.”
However, his wife Bonnie said that since law enforcement began cracking down in the ’90s, Isla Vista Halloween has gradually calmed.
“It’s been less of a problem,” Bonnie said. “Out-of-towners oftentimes cause the most horrendous problems.”
Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, who lives on the 6800 block of Fortuna Road with his wife, said students and his friends in Santa Barbara and Montecito often ask why he puts up with living in Isla Vista.
“Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful things going on here,” Hedges said. “But I wouldn’t have stayed here if I didn’t see a lot of problems.”
Hedges, the pastor at St. Athanasius Antiochian Orthodox Church in Isla Vista, is a UCSB graduate and has been a resident of I.V. for over 30 years, spending 10 years in a house on the 6600 block of Sueno Road before moving to Fortuna Road, where he’s spent the last 17 years.
Carrying a badge in his belt pack, Hedges serves as a volunteer chaplain with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept.
During Halloween last year, Hedges said he and Sheriff Jim Anderson found themselves in the middle of a “push and shove” on a Del Playa packed with partiers, not far from the cliffs that border the oceanside street.
He said he mentioned to the sheriff at that moment how dangerous a stampede would be.
“I’ve been in riots, and I’ve been in acts of civil disobedience. It can change into a stampede just like that,” Hedges said with a snap of his fingers. “Throwing alcohol into the mix is what can tip the scale.”
With an education in cultural anthropology, Hedges said he sees many of Isla Vista’s problems in cultural terms.
“I hear conversations [about drinking] that I wouldn’t have heard a decade ago,” Hedges said. “Most folks don’t see the dignity they have as human beings.”
He said students have made drinking an extreme sport and that they party harder now because they have fewer alternatives.
“There were more cultural activities back then,” Hedges said. “It’s all dried up. Now we have a lot of liquor stores.”
Hedges, who will be walking with the I.V. Foot Patrol again this Halloween, said that in addition to his continuing pleas for students to moderate their partying, he wants students to realize sooner rather than later that they’re wasting a lot of time being hung over after long nights of partying.
“Let’s not miss out on changing the world because we were too drunk,” Hedges said.