The local organization Fence Isla Vista is currently working to increase knowledge of dangers that reside along the coastline beside the UCSB campus, where beachside cliffs have been the site of multiple deaths this past school year.
According to the Office of Student Life records, four people have fallen off the cliffs along Del Playa Drive within the past two years. In response to the numerous deaths and their questioning of local safety issues, Fence Isla Vista was formed by six students this past April as part of an assignment for the class Political Science 171: Communication and Politics. The assignment required using social media and communication to mobilize other students and the community to become aware of an issue, which is being done by the organization.
Fence Isla Vista creators began a petition on change.org that states a cause to “improve current fencing stability and safety standards along the cliffs,” and the petition has received 288 signatures thus far.
Alex Stoeber, second-year political science major and a project coordinator for Fence Isla Vista, said there is a city ordinance mandating that all fences along DP stand at least three-and-a half feet tall. Most of the fences, however, are below this height, according to Stoeber.
“You can’t retroactively require landowners to change their homes, so only new properties have to own up to that standard,” Stoeber said.
Second-year biology major Molly Morrison, who later joined the group along with another member, said she personally knew two people who passed away as a result of the cliff incidents.
“In November, [it was] David Propp. I had met him a couple times, but it took me by surprise,” Morrison said. “In April, I was walking around on DP, and I heard someone say, ‘I saw someone fall of the cliff yesterday,’ and I didn’t even react to it.”
The April death Morrison referred to involved Giselle Ayala, a Cal Poly student, who was visiting I.V. during Deltopia weekend.
“On Sunday, I found out not only did my friend pass away, but she didn’t even go to this school,” Morrison said. “She was a beautiful, bright young woman, and I couldn’t even wrap my head around the fact that this happened.”
According to Stoeber, Fence Isla Vista has attempted to approach City Council about fencing issues, but there was “a lot of red tape” preventing the cause from being heard. Stoeber said the team then decided to personally address local landlords, beginning with the landlord of a house located on oceanside DP that has a balcony that collapsed during Deltopia weekend.
However, Stoeber said the landlord’s unwillingness to talk discouraged the group from continuing that route, and instead, the group decided to reach out to UCSB students in regards to inadequate fencing in I.V.. The group’s efforts so far have led to the installment of a fence located at the end of the 6600 block, which Morrison said is not a very good fence but is “more symbolic than anything else.”
Stoeber said he hopes Fence Isla Vista can get a resolution passed next fall that would allow Associated Students to support the effort and possibly create a new committee to advance it. Stoeber also said that Fence Isla Vista is seeking to gain more petition signatures to further develop their cause.
“I want to take it before the Board of Supervisors and look for a way through laws or building code enforcement to make sure there really is change,” Stoeber said. “It’s only been around for seven weeks, but already it’s gotten almost 300 signatures. It’s getting YouTube videos, getting views, getting so much support from the community.”
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