In the wake of accidental deaths resulting from cliff falls along Isla Vista, the Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs is collaborating with other local groups and community members to build a fence at Walter Capps Park on Del Playa Drive.
The A.S. EVPLA hopes to make cliff-side locations along Del Playa Drive, like Walter Capps Park, safer for students and other community members. The decision comes in light of growing concerns that these areas do not have adequate protection, as there have been a number of deaths in past decades — including the death of a UCSB fourth-year student just last quarter.
To provide student residents and other community members with additional information regarding the fence-building project and related issues of safety, the A.S. EVPLA Office will host an event at Embarcadero Hall this Friday at 1 p.m.
There have been several falls and accidents resulting from unprotected cliff areas, according to Rhandy Siordia, A.S. EVPLA. Siordia said he chose to renovate Walter Capps Park since it is the only park along Del Playa Drive lacking any sort of fencing structure.
“I knew that the cliffs were dangerous and that we’ve lost students to cliff falls in the past,” Siordia said. “So it didn’t make sense to me that there was a stretch of cliff, without any protection from the fall or deterrent whatsoever.”
Once he developed the idea, Siordia began working with county officials to research past accidents and soon thereafter made efforts to attain funding from a variety of public and private sources.
Third District County Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district serves Isla Vista, said she and her staff have been working with UCSB groups, Santa Barbara County officials, I.V. Foot Patrol officers and the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District to further develop the fence project and ensure construction goes through.
Public safety in Isla Vista requires that every effort should be made to ensure bluffs are protected as much as possible, according to Farr, who added that funding from various sources will make construction and maintenance of the fence possible.
While Farr referred to the project as encompassing a public safety issue, the many cliffside structures along Del Playa Drive — including fences, decks and railings — are privately owned and thus, individual property owners are responsible for keeping these structures safe and functioning.
However, Santa Barbara County officials do periodically inspect buildings resting on the coastal side, ensuring that the natural erosion of bluffs has not worn away structures that are constructed beneath the buildings to support them. If an inspection results in findings that indicate a structure is in danger, county officials will notify a property owner and request that construction is completed to make the structure safe.
But such efforts do not always guarantee the bluffs are completely protected and safe, Farr said.
“Despite all of these precautions, individuals should always be cautious and aware anytime they are close to the bluffs. Tragically, we have seen serious accidents and deaths from cliff falls when someone becomes intoxicated and disoriented as to the location of the bluff edge,” Farr said. “So both residents and visitors alike should always be extremely careful whenever they are in the vicinity of the bluff edge, whether enjoying the open spaces of County and IVRPD parks or partying in the private residences along the bluffs.”
Siordia said the project includes issues that are very relevant to the student body, and encourages students to support efforts tackling these otherwise neglected issues.
“This project is extremely relevant to students because, as we have painfully witnessed, students fall from the cliffs occasionally and most of the time the fall is fatal,” Siordia said. “Students should acknowledge the idea that, in this case, a gorgeous view is accompanied with extreme danger and that that fatal fall can be caused by one simple … misstep.”
However, students are not the only community members who should pay attention to cliff-related safety concerns, Siordia said, adding that local officials and representatives should be held accountable for ensuring the public safety of Isla Vista is fully protected.
“Santa Barbara County and representatives therein need to prioritize cliff falls as an issue, and do everything possible to prevent future incidents from occurring,” Siordia said. “Doreen Farr and her staff have been supportive of this project and have been instrumental in researching its feasibility. On the flip side, a lack of support from the County in any way would truly demonstrate a lack of concern for student health and well being.”
The event this Friday highlights the need for the fence as a basic safety right, relaying this message to students as there are growing concerns regarding various other areas of safety concern — including adequate street lighting and more accessible law enforcement personnel.
Anastasia Nevyakina — a first-year global studies and economics major — said the project may protect the lives of cliff dwellers, but it may also cause some unnecessary disturbances and hold other downfalls.
“I believe that it would prevent unnecessary injuries and even deaths since there were known accidents where students fell off the cliff while being sober and under the influence,” Nevyakina said. “However, the construction work might disturb people who are living in the affected area and there will be people who won’t support this project.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of January 28th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.