Eye on Isla Vista

WelcomeToIslaVistaThe original article is featured as a part of the Santa Barbara Independent’s weekly online “Eye on Isla Vista” column. When I agreed to write for the column on a monthly basis the editor told me  I could write about anything – my experience living there, new businesses, changes in laws – as long as it pertained to IV. So, for my first contribution, I chose to write about my experience over the past two years living in the tiny, glorified slum of reckless college students. I hope my piece effectively conveys to you the love-hate relationship most people have with the one square mile of overpriced real estate in one of the most beautiful places on earth and that the single, lone, and unimpressed commenter clearly didn’t understand.

Stealing Bikes and Burning Couches: What Else Is There to Do?

I’m six months into owning my first car and my driver’s-side mirror has been smashed twice – both times in the parking lot behind my apartment. My best friend had bumper stickers completely removed from her car by passersby. Over summer someone stole one of my roommate’s bike tires and then two months later just took her entire bike. Another roommate has had two bikes stolen. Clearly, a higher power is trying to tell us to stop leaving the apartment.

Isla Vista is a one-square-mile section of beautiful California coastline populated by intelligent degenerates. Glass is everywhere, trash often overflows out of bins and so far into the street that I have to alter my running route, and the bike ride to class can be navigated without looking up from the ground – just use the marks in the asphalt from years of burning couches. It’s easy to put down Isla Vista. The people who live here clearly aren’t always the most respectful of the things or people around them. Just ask any landlord, property manager, or person innocently walking down the street who has been the target of some of the awful slur-attacks on any given weekend.

But this place isn’t all bad, because the people here aren’t all bad. Every day, in the tiny apartments all around Isla Vista there are students working hard to make improvements to the community.

Lighting, for instance, has recently become the charge of a hard-working group of students because they recognize how dilapidated and dangerous our current lighting, or lack thereof, is. Other students are working toward putting fences in parks that don’t have them because they see the danger of the exposed cliffs. Last month, student members of the Isla Vista Tenants Union demonstrated to protest a local landlord’s evicting families and raising rent.

I guarantee you that while some students are out getting drunk, stealing bikes, and breaking mirrors, there are others gathered in warm apartments until very early in the morning trying to find a way to make Isla Vista a safer and more inclusive space for the people who live here. You just don’t hear about them as often.

I would absolutely love to see more murals, more street fairs, a farmers’ market and more productive outlets for students other than drinking and becoming expert snappa players – something the guys across the street are accomplishing at such a rapid pace I expect it to be an event in the next Summer Olympics. But, I know those things will come in time.

Thanks to Isla Vista I’ve met amazing people, truly grown as a person, and even learned how to make a pool in the back of a truck thanks to the guys across the street. But organizing or participating in an activity that doesn’t involve alcohol, on top of being a student? Not everybody’s got time for that, at least not yet. I think I see it coming, though. As a former news editor for The Bottom Line and current executive managing editor, I’ve seen a growth in the number of proactive, community-changing projects compared to previous years that makes me confident about its future. Until then, however, I’ll always think of Isla Vista when I hear Britney Spears’ hit song “Toxic.”

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