Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Laura Capps hosted an informal coffee hour at the Isla Vista Community Center on April 19 to meet with local stakeholders and address their concerns. Attendees primarily discussed housing and safety issues in Isla Vista as well as in the district as a whole.

Supervisor Capps spoke to the Isla Vista community over safety concerns at an informal coffee talk. Siavash Ghadiri / Daily Nexus

This coffee chat follows Capps’ months-long endeavor of the eight-step cliff safety plan, which was approved during the Nov. 7 Santa Barbara County (SBC) Board of Supervisors meeting. The plan includes developments around fencing heights, lighting, horticulture and other enforcement measures around the bluffs.

Capps discussed the high cost and low quality of housing in I.V. as a principal point of conversation. Both Capps and the sheriff’s deputies spoke about their experiences visiting at-risk properties along Del Playa Drive. Capps said that one property on Del Playa Drive earns its landlord $22,000 in rent per month from 19 students, despite the cliffside balcony having partially collapsed. 

One deputy recounted an incident they had worked on personally, in which a landlord had been slow to respond to students’ complaints about a pipe leak. 

Capps responded that she and her team are looking into implementing a more proactive safety inspection process. She later echoed the officers’ concern for students’ health and well-being.

 “I’ve just heard so much about what I see as clear price-gouging of students in Isla Vista, and it’s concerning,” Capps said. “It feeds into this whole issue of safety in I.V. … [Students are] living in unhealthy environments and paying astronomical rates.”

Capps added that county authorities lack the power to enforce housing-related safety ordinances, saying they cannot compel landlords to renovate their properties. Instead, Capps and her team have been speaking with landlords one-on-one to entice them into complying with the ordinances by offering county funds to help cover the expense of installing new fencing, lighting and other safety accommodations.

Capps spoke to her prioritization of broader housing issues, emphasizing that her office has also been trying to crack down on unlawful evictions. Evictions often come as a result of landlords closing their properties on the grounds of performing maintenance, which in many cases is “cosmetic,” according to Capps. 

Additionally, she spoke about the county’s state-mandated Housing Element plan, which will add roughly 6,000 new housing units in the county over the next eight years. Approximately 4,000 of these units will be concentrated in the Eastern Goleta Valley — the area east of campus and downtown Goleta and west of downtown Santa Barbara. Capps criticized the decision to concentrate so much of the housing in one locale but stressed that she is in favor of adding new housing across the county.

“In fact, I voted against it because of the concentration in a small area,” Capps said. “I am in favor of new housing, just a little more spread out.”