It’s the closest thing UCSB has to a tradition: every so often, someone – sometimes an out-of-towner unfamiliar with the perils among which we live every day – imbibes a bit heavily and takes a death plunge straight off of the Del Playa bluffs. Such an event typically prompts a crowd of standard-issue concerned citizens – tearful relatives, bored activists, what have you – to make noises about state-mandated protection for the area: reinforcement of the ground, perhaps, or some sort of high-tech fence. I’m sure they mean well, but if there’s one thing that the proud denizens of the DP need, it’s danger. The more they’re putting their life on the line by simply existing where they do, the better.
Though I have very little love for their parties, I’m not calling for the indirect extermination of the Del Players. In reality, they’re actually helped out by their location being allowed to remain a risky one. Consider, apathetic landlords aside, the single most troublesome element of Isla Vista life: housing costs. The demand for space in I.V. is high, stoked by the neighborhood’s proximity to both campus and the beach. Simultaneously, unless you want to pitch a pup tent in Anisq’ Oyo’ Park, the supply of space in I.V. is low, or at least somewhat fixed. As a result, prices are driven to a level many are uncomfortable paying, especially when they’re assured at least one extended struggle over who pays to get rid of the termites.
Thus, if potential Isla Vistans want to shell out less scratch for their sleeping space, they’d better pray the area becomes less desirable. There are a number of ways this could occur: stricter liquor laws, the relocation of UCSB, a catastrophic sewer backup. However, the solution need not be as unpleasant as any of these. One easy way to check on the price of a block is for residence there to entail the possible loss of life and limb. So it is with good old DP.
It’s waterfront property, it’s legendarily festive and it’s a mere stumble away from an acclaimed institute of higher learning: There are good reasons DP is pricey. These factors are partially defrayed by squalor, innumerable roommates and property owners who act like they’re doing you a favor by letting you give them your money. Still, the x-factor of whether or not you’ll swan dive to your grisly end is what really keeps housing within reach of the common Gaucho.
The positive effect of altitude-related threats on prices is also a compelling reason to keep the long arm of the government far away from all matters of erosion. Sure, the chance that they’ll tumble down a bluff deters some, but what if there’s a nontrivial possibility that an entire apartment complex could slide right off into the ocean? Not only would this create the kind of Jerry Bruckheimer-style spectacle that everyone around here denies hoping for, but it would lower the appeal of Del Playa housing further still, taking a huge bite out of demand and thus the average monthly rental fee.
Yes, if the California Coastal Commission – an example of the overextension of government power if there ever was one – swooped in and ordered all manner of structural features upgraded and safety measures installed, far fewer bright, potential-filled young minds would be dashed out on the rocks. (Then again, if you’re drinking yourself into a stupor while hanging around the edge of a cliff, posthumous questions about your potential inevitably arise.) At the sum total, however, will such measures really help?
In the end, a safe Del Playa is an expensive Del Playa; the partying college student who just wants to live near the beach shouldn’t be monetarily punished because some soused twenty-something occasionally puts his invincibility to the test. Forget tenant unionization; why not get together and increase Isla Vista’s risk factor, making some examples in the process? After all, if that frat boy gives you one more unwanted grope, an unwanted swan dive may just be the final solution.
Colin Marshall is a junior business economics and communications major.