Isla Vista residents wanting to soak up a few rays will soon find that getting to the beach may become a lot easier as a result of ongoing renovations to nearby wooden staircases.
The renovation of three of the five beach access staircases in I.V. began in September. However, Kris Miller-Fisher, assistant to 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, said the construction is taking slightly longer than the county’s 40 days projection.
Santa Barbara County Communications Director William Boyer said the grand opening of the new staircases will take place in early November.
One improvement to the staircases includes replacement of the old timber steps with stainless steel ones. Over the years, weather damage resulted in various repairs to the stairs, causing the county to frequently rope off the accessways.
Miller-Fisher said I.V. residents’ safety was the main motivation for the project. She said the stainless steel is much easier than wood to maintain, resulting in fewer closures.
Students and community members will enjoy easier trips to the beach, Miller-Fisher said.
“It’s going to be a great thing,” she said. “It will be reliable and a safe access to the beach.”
Most of the stainless steel work is done offsite, she said. The work that is done onsite is mostly completed at night to avoid daytime high tides.
Due to these factors, Miller-Fisher said many students do not notice the construction.
Associated Students Coastal Fund Grant Manager Scott Bull said his group provided a significant portion of the money – approximately $80,000 – to conduct the renovations. The California Coastal Conservancy provided another large portion of the funding.
The renovations are important to the I.V. community, Bull said, because each year the wooden staircases were damaged by storms, rendering them dangerous and in some cases, useless.
Bull said metal reinforcement would cause fewer closures, allowing residents to head down to the beach all year long, not just when the weather is calm.
“We are really looking forward to the completion of this project so beach access won’t be closed in the winter,” Bull said.
Fourth-year sociology major Mike Evans said that while he is not personally affected, he sees how the stair renovations could improve the community.
“To tell you the truth, [the renovations] don’t affect me very much,” Evans said. “It’s inconvenient because we live on a cliff because it makes it hard to get to the beach.”
Miller-Fisher said local organizations and county government were working for years to complete the I.V. staircase, but because of lengthy funding and permitting processes, it was delayed until now.
She said she hopes the stairs are finished before Nov. 15 to avoid storm season.