The Santa Barbara County Fire Department evacuated four apartment units in a 6700 block dwelling in Isla Vista on Feb. 6 due to bluff erosion and subsequent fence damage following the storm last weekend.
Following a drone assessment of the bluff erosion on the block, the Santa Barbara County (SBC) Fire Department evacuated approximately 45 residents at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
An SBC planning and building inspector determined that the residents could return to their residences at approximately 2 p.m. following the installation of a temporary exclusion fence to restrict access to the patio for safety reasons.
“We flew our drones, looked at it, and they determined that it was deemed to be repopulated,” SBC Fire Public Information Officer Scott Safechuck said.
Bluff erosion and cliff safety are not new concerns for Isla Vista residents, with the County Board of Supervisors approving Second District Supervisor Laura Capps’ eight-step cliff safety plan in November 2023.
“Our bluffs are continuously eroding, so there’s been a constant assessment of residents along the Del Playa area,” Safechuck said. “When we have storms like that, it’s a way [for us] to take a look at it.”
One of the evacuated residents was third-year global studies major Lola Watts.
“We woke up to a text from our housemate with a photo of our balcony, so I called our landlord and they sent two people over and they put caution tape around the whole balcony,” Watts said. “Then there was a giant banging on the door, and it was the police, and they basically just told us that the balcony was collapsing and we needed to evacuate immediately.”
Watts said Wolfe & Associates Property Management, the owner of the building, did not provide housing accommodations during the evacuation period, forcing her to find emergency accommodations elsewhere.
“Wolfe didn’t reach out … and we had to call them and ask for a lease to see if there was anything in the lease that could help us,” Watts said. “But we’re just staying at our friend’s house for now, and we might go home because we don’t really feel comfortable.”
Watts shared her concerns with the inconclusive nature of the incident.
“It’s kind of frightening,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going on, and that’s why we don’t feel comfortable coming back right now.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Feb. 8, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.