Tentative plans to build public restrooms on Del Playa Drive have been stalled, for the time being, due to a lack of financing and county support for the project.
Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone has decided to temporarily forgo the bathroom project, which was developed by his predecessor, Gail Marshall. Citing recent crime in the area and a shortage of available funds, Firestone said he does not think there would be sufficient backing from the other county supervisors to move forward with the plan.
Currently, Anisq’ Oyo’ Park and Children’s Park house the only public restrooms in Isla Vista.
Firestone said his administration had developed no concrete timeline or budget for the Del Playa bathroom project, but will not press the issue in the future.
“The county doesn’t actually have plans or budget for [the restrooms],” Firestone said. “The likelihood of receiving a vote for funds, which has to be done by the supervisors, would be improved by reducing the law enforcement activities on Del Playa.”
Marshall originally began planning for the project following the county’s implementation of the 2002 Urination Ordinance, which allows judges to set the fine at their discretion for people convicted of urinating in public.
Isla Vista Recreation and Park District Director Diane Conn said she thinks Marshall found most of the funding prior to leaving office. She said she recently requested that Kris Miller-Fisher, Firestone’s director of special projects, ask Firestone about the county’s progress on the project.
Conn said Marshall commissioned a study to determine possible locations for the restrooms, but the former supervisor did not decide on a location before she retired. She said local officials and Isla Vista Recreation and Park District members could not decide where to place the public restrooms, since nobody wanted them on or near their property.
“This has been going on forever,” Conn said. “When Gail came out and Firestone came in, it got stalled. So nothing was going on, and we were pushing very hard for beach accessway to get repaired and the bathrooms were put in the next round [of negotiations with the county.]”
After meeting with Miller-Fisher, Firestone said he decided not to pursue the restroom project.
“The climate is not good right now,” Firestone said. “We’ve got one felony for running down nine people and the fellow’s going to spend the year in jail. We’ve got a possible indictment for couch burning, and we don’t have a good record right now. I’m not going to pursue it immediately.”
Matthew Priestley, a third-year biopsychology major who lives on the 6600 block of DP said he thinks Firestone’s reasons for stopping work on the bathroom project will disappoint most Isla Vista residents.
“I think that’s pretty dumb for him to say that, because it’s going to make him seem like he doesn’t really care abut us,” Priestley said. “I think it’s pretty ridiculous, because I don’t know how big of a constituency he has, but I think we make up a pretty big portion of that.
Conn said she also disagrees with Firestone’s decision.
“Personally, I don’t think – though I don’t know – that the couch burnings should have anything to do with providing services to your constituency,” Conn said. “If couch burnings are a problem, we need to find a better strategy to stop couch burnings.
Conn said she thinks county support for the construction of restrooms on Del Playa is important, especially for people who live on the street, which is heavily populated on weekends.
“On DP there’s a steady parade of people who go to the stairways and just piss off the stairway,” Conn said. “I have people walking in my yard all the time, wanting to feed my yard.”
Junior psychology major Tara Sandvig said she thinks I.V. needs public restrooms on DP. She said it is often hard to find a clean, safe place to use the restroom when she goes out at night.
“I think it would be a pretty good idea,” Sandvig said. “I would use them if they were kept clean. I think that if they were in a space that’s far away from houses and were kept clean, they would be a really good idea.”
Priestley said people are constantly trying to use the restroom in his house on weekends. He said he thinks there should be public restrooms on DP, but he does not want them near his house.
“I think that public restrooms would probably be good, because it gets really annoying when you have people coming into your house all the time, like really drunk people trying to use your bathrooms,” Priestley said.
Conn said she thinks I.V. residents should let Firestone know how they feel about the bathroom proposal.
“I encourage people who live in I.V. to let the supervisor know if they think this is important,” Conn said. “Everyone deserves to have a bathroom.”