The Isla Vista Community Services District recently hired a team of five employees to conduct operations for Isla Vista Beautiful as it expands its program to clean up Isla Vista of trash, graffiti and weeds.
The Isla Vista Beautiful Program originated in 2018 in partnership with the independent nonprofit United Way — dedicated to serving the Santa Barbara community with a focus on academic achievement, financial empowerment and crisis response and recovery. When the contract between the two parties ended this year, the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) moved to operate the program directly and hire internal staff.
The previous partnership with United Way provided people facing housing insecurity with job opportunities through a work experience training program with I.V. Beautiful.
“[United Way wasn’t] able to fulfill the contract so we decided to make it in-house as a way to keep it going,” IVCSD General Manager Jonathan Abboud said. “They’re going in a different direction as an organization, and so this wasn’t part of their mission anymore.”
Abboud said that IVCSD is looking at reviving the work training program for community members experiencing houselessness and developing a separate budget with which to do so.
“We have a separate budget to maybe contract with a nonprofit that also serves homeless populations to have more work experience,” Abboud said. “We’ll need to contract specifically with another nonprofit once we’re able to find someone we can work with.”
Hired in August as the new Isla Vista Beautiful Program Manager, Jenna Norton graduated from UCSB with undergraduate degrees in philosophy and sociology and worked as a project manager for a real estate remodeling company before joining IVCSD. IVCSD finalized the hiring of four additional employees to work with Norton in September.
Norton said that under her management, the program will aim to continue to address issues of priority for the Isla Vista community, including trash and graffiti.
“We feel that bringing beautification projects to Isla Vista is really important for the well-being of the people that live there and the environment,” Norton said. “We want to focus on graffiti abatement, trash pickup, weed removal and streetlight improvements, as well as work with local businesses to keep our commercial district clean and beautiful.”
Norton recently executed a project to remove shoes hanging from Cox Communications wires throughout Isla Vista, collecting 341 pairs of shoes at a total weight of 585 pounds. Cox Communications was happy to take the shoes down to deliver to Isla Vista Beautiful, according to Norton.
“Some of the [shoes] were in a condition where they could not be reused, but many of them could be reused, so we partnered with some local nonprofits who were able to come and take many of the shoes off of our hands and get them to people who needed them,” she said.
Norton also put an emphasis on creating a “culture of respect and care” within the community to encourage people to limit the waste and environmental harm they create.
“It is in such a special place right by the ocean,” Norton said. “I hope to do that through education and community outreach and general awareness.”
Norton said that educating citizens on how to properly dispose of trash and recycle represents a key mission of Isla Vista Beautiful, especially during the move-out process when students and other renters see their lease end.
Norton added that the campaign with Cox Communications to remove the shoes also provided an opportunity for community engagement regarding the harms of environmental waste.
“I hope to take this experience and use it to tell the community about how it’s better to donate these shoes,” she said. “They do accumulate and a lot of them end up in the trash, and it would be better if we didn’t throw them up there.”
Isla Vista Beautiful is operating on a budget of $196,000 for this fiscal year and could potentially expand in the future by holding volunteer events.
Abboud said that the revamping of Isla Vista Beautiful, with the hiring of Norton and four other employees, has enabled the program to execute projects at an elevated level of quality and efficiency.
“We haven’t had one person to really focus on these different issues like trash and graffiti and lighting at IVCSD, so to have someone who it’s their full time job to care for Isla Vista in this way is new for I.V., and I think it’s going to see real results,” Abboud said.
Abboud recognized Norton’s contributions as elevating the program to accomplish bigger projects than before.
“Could we have organized what Jenna did with the Cox shoes before? Maybe, but it would not have been anywhere near that level of quality of work and we wouldn’t be able to do it as often and as efficiently.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Sept. 22, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.