Despite a new law requiring timely removal of graffiti, tagging in Isla Vista remains a growing problem.
Last December, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed the Graffiti Ordinance to work with the Isla Vista Park and Recreation District’s Adopt-A-Block program to deter public vandalism. However, budget concerns have prevented the county from effectively enforcing the code and growing quantities of graffiti remain untouched.
According to the ordinance, the county offers I.V. property owners the choice of either removing the graffiti themselves or allowing the county to remove the graffiti, free of charge. If a landlord opts for the former, they are allowed 10 days to remove the fresh graffiti, after which time a $100 fee will be assessed every day the graffiti remains.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said the ordinance was formed in hopes of developing an easy way to effectively combat illegal defacement.
“Graffiti tends to bring on more graffiti,” Farr said. “The idea was we could help private property owners get rid of it at no cost to them. If I were a property owner it seems like an easy decision to me.”
However, according the Lt. Olmstead of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, county officials have not decided how to “implement the terms of the ordinance.” Farr equates the problem to a lack of funds.
“There’s not enough money,” she said. “We need to find another source of funding to kind of back-fill this lack that we have.”
The Graffiti Ordinance is countywide but, as Olmstead said, it is essentially only at work in I.V., and just barely.
“We really haven’t started acting on it yet,” Olmstead said.
Just last weekend, several new examples of graffiti surfaced on Del Playa Drive and Sabado Tarde Road, including an abstract blue figure coupled with writing that states, “Brilliant blue, I love you,” among other phrases. Another tagging was found on a parking lot divider on Sabado Tarde, which read, “Love Thy Neighbor.” Only the latter has been removed.
Joey Ostrand, a second-year biochemistry and environmental studies major and resident of one of the defaced Sabado Tarde apartment complexes, thinks that the graffiti is distasteful.
“I don’t mind it if it looks good, like if it’s an artist doing it,” Ostrand said. “But when its just shitty drawings and stupid phrases, it’s dumb. I like when there’s cool cut outs or stencils. I think that’s art in I.V.”
Ethan McSpadden, a second-year biochemistry major and self-proclaimed fan of graffiti, lives at one of the tagged DP complexes and echoed Ostrand’s sentiments about the quality of the new graffiti.
“I like [graffiti] from an artistic standpoint, but these new tags took no talent at all,” McSpadden said. “If I was a business owner or landlord, I would be opposed. I have mixed feelings on it and it’s usually based on the content. … In terms of I.V. in general, I think it’s a hard question. Shady graffiti makes I.V. look trashy.”
Olmstead hopes that the ordinance can be more carefully addressed after more urgent issues, such as the Jesusita Fire, pass in order to end the “cycle” of vandalism.
“I think there’s definitely a problem that needs to be addressed,” Olmstead said. “The whole [goal] is to help clean up I.V.”