Improving Safety in Isla Vista

June 13, 2014

Dear Members of the UC Santa Barbara Community,

I had been planning to update our community this summer on the University’s efforts and plans to address safety in Isla Vista and help support positive change in our neighboring community, but feel that it is important, in light of recent events, to write earlier and to ask for your continued participation in this important endeavor.

I want to thank everyone who has shared his or her ideas with me over the past several months. I have received many thoughtful letters and been able to engage in discussions with many of you who share my deep concern for the safety of our community and the importance of making a lasting change in Isla Vista. I want to assure you that the University is fully committed to taking immediate actions as well as working on long-term solutions to change the culture in Isla Vista. I have been working closely with UC’s Office of the President, under the leadership of President Napolitano, and the Board of Regents, who have expressed their full support of our ongoing efforts.

I apologize for the length of this letter, but feel that it is important for our community to be aware of all the steps that have already been taken as well as our future plans. This message is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but I hope it will illustrate the scope of the University’s response. These steps are just the beginning of what I hope will be an enduring effort by our community.

Over the last several months, my administrative colleagues and I personally have been actively working to engage several of the most important partners that will be needed to enact long-term change on campus and in Isla Vista. I am proud to say that many of our students have been leaders in these efforts. Together we have been meeting with Santa Barbara County officials, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, Santa Barbara City College (which has thousands of students who call IV home), and residents of Isla Vista to share ideas and work toward solutions. In addition, we recognize that the property owners who rent to our students have an extremely important role to play in bringing about change and we have been trying to engage with them as well, but have had only limited success to date.

Although we believe a holistic approach to addressing the problems is necessary, we believe that there are areas where the University can act unilaterally that may help to catalyze a broader response. In these areas we are continuing to take aggressive actions to address our shared concerns. Last month, I wrote to outline some of the immediate steps we have already taken to strengthen security on campus and in IV in the near-term (which are in addition to the yearly $1.5 million the University contributes to the County for policing and fire efforts), but there has also been a great deal of work in a number of other areas.

Trustee Advisory Committee on Isla Vista Strategies

The UC Santa Barbara Foundation Board of Trustees spent almost our entire last meeting discussing the challenges of IV and possible solutions. I have asked trustee and distinguished professor emeritus Duncan Mellichamp to work with other members of that group (see committee roster, attached at end of this message), who represent other diverse interests in the broader Santa Barbara community, to advise the University and make sure that our approach to finding solutions is broad and reaches out past traditional boundaries. I am grateful to our trustees for their commitment to our University and specifically to Duncan, who has served as former chair of the UC Santa Barbara and UC Systemwide Academic Senates, for his leadership in this area and continued support of our University.

IV Infrastructure Improvement Efforts

Lighting

The University, which has already committed $2 million toward future infrastructure improvements in IV as a part of our Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), has recently committed an additional $220,000 to the County for immediate improvements to lighting in IV. This is a separate initiative from the additional lighting that has been installed across campus over the last several months. (The University has also nearly completed a comprehensive lighting and security assessment and will be implementing additional measures starting this summer.)

Fencing

Through the advocacy of student groups, the County, with the full support of the University, has arranged for temporary fences along the bluffs in IV while they work on a plan for a permanent barrier. This effort is being fully funded by the University through the generous gifts of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation.

Services

Duncan Mellichamp’s recent editorials and conversations with our students highlight the importance of community services, including parking. The University committed $50,000 to funding a parking study in Isla Vista as part of the LRDP. We look forward to working with the County to implement a longoverdue comprehensive resident permit-parking program that allows beach access but limits parking during certain morning hours to nonresidents.

Campus Access

The campus will be restricting parking and access as well as increasing fines on days and nights during unsanctioned events in Isla Vista, and will be working with local businesses to limit parking as well. We have also implemented new measures to restrict campus parking for non-University affiliates during weekends in order to discourage people from outside the community coming to Isla Vista.

Sidewalks

We will urge the County to consider using some of the $2 million from the LRDP fund to complete sidewalks as envisioned in the Isla Vista Master Plan.

Sobriety Checkpoints

Separate from any of the specific University-sponsored actions, the UC Police Department has informed me of their intention to conduct sobriety checkpoints dedicated to safe operation of motor vehicles beginning in September. As required, they will be informing the community several days before each planned sobriety checkpoint. Street Closure We continue to urge the County to allow full street closure prior to any event that may pose a danger to the Isla Vista community.

Legislative Efforts and Property Owner Accountability

We are supporting the County exploration into possible legislative actions that could contribute to making Isla Vista a safer community. The University will encourage the County to enforce current zoning regulation and adopt new ordinances or initiatives to hold property owners accountable for what happens on their property by levying increasingly higher levels of fines on property owners who allow unsafe conditions, including violations of zoning ordinances related to occupancy, loud music, and other unsafe or hazardous conditions. The University will request that the County adopt an ordinance to require property owners on the beach side of Del Playa to erect 6-foot-high fencing along their properties, including balconies. We believe it is time that property owners share the responsibility for the unsafe conditions that exist in Isla Vista. In addition, we will also call upon the County to review the current festival ordinances in order to look for ways to improve safety during unsanctioned events, and work with students to foster better communications about any changes.

We will also be working with the County to explore the possibility of holding the sponsors of the social media pages advertising unsanctioned events financially responsible for the costs incurred by the County and the University as a result of the event.

Education and Prevention

The University requires all incoming students (freshmen and transfers) to complete mandatory alcohol and drug awareness and education training programs, as well as mandatory sexual violence education and awareness programs. These on-line and in-person trainings have been required for several years; however, we are currently working to expand existing educational programs for incoming and continuing students to further educate them about the issues they will face in Isla Vista in particular.

The University has a Student Code of Conduct that governs student behavior on campus and at campus activities. Our existing disciplinary process allows us to hold students accountable for their behavior on campus and, through extension of jurisdiction, any serious criminal behavior that takes place off campus and in Isla Vista. Although by policy we are currently limited to extending our jurisdiction for only the most serious crimes (i.e., violence, threats of violence, stalking, hazing, and sexual assault), it has been our practice since 2000 to send letters of concern to students and to notify parents when we receive reports from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office of arrests and citations for alcohol and drug violations involving our students in Isla Vista. Going forward, we will be sharing the names of nonaffiliates who are cited or arrested in Isla Vista with other colleges and universities, asking that they consider taking similar actions to communicate with their students and notify parents.

In addition, during weekends of unsanctioned events in the Isla Vista community, we will ensure that Housing and Residential Services strengthens and strictly enforces restrictions on overnight visitors.

Most importantly, we are currently developing a pledge in consultation with student leadership, for all incoming undergraduate students to help address the University’s expectations for behavior, both on campus and in Isla Vista.

Faculty Engagement

We can draw on the scholarly resources and expertise of our faculty as we address the challenges presented by Isla Vista. I also believe that there is an important role that my colleagues in the faculty and I can play as educators and mentors. I will be asking faculty leaders to help recruit other members of our faculty to think about the best way of reaching out to students to help them consider the choices they are making even when they are not on campus. I also invite faculty to be a more visible part of the IV community and to join Dilling and me for nighttime walks through the neighborhood. Enacting real change will not just be about steps that the University can take, but it will also be about engaging our students to be a part of the solution.

We want to build on our successes in shaping the culture in IV through such programs as IV Arts and other cultural and academic programs that are offering alternatives to students and enhancing the community.

We know that Isla Vista holds a special place in the hearts of many students and alumni. It has been both romanticized and vilified. Given the number of UC Santa Barbara students who choose to live in Isla Vista, the University, rightly, has played an active role in trying to make Isla Vista a safe and welcoming community. We also recognize that what happens in Isla Vista reflects — sometimes positively and sometimes negatively — on the University. These steps and plans outlined above are just the start. We look forward to proactively working with all interested parties to find positive solutions to the many complex problems that Isla Vista presents, and we welcome all feedback. With all stakeholders working together, I know we can transform this community for the better.

Sincerely,

Henry T. Yang
Chancellor

 

UC Santa Barbara Trustee Advisory Committee on Isla Vista Strategies

Duncan Mellichamp* (Committee Chair): Professor Emeritus, Chemical Engineering, UC Santa Barbara
Kum-Kum Bhavnani: Professor of Sociology and Chair of the UC Santa Barbara Academic Senate
Mark Bertelsen: Senior Partner, Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati
Dan Burnham*: Retired Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Company
Marcy Carsey: Partner, Carsey-Werner Company
Gary Erickson: President and CEO of The Erickson Group
Ali Guthy*: President, UC Santa Barbara Associated Students
Judith Hopkinson*: Former Chief Operating Officer of Ameriquest Capital Corporation & UC Regent
Emeritus
R. Marilyn Lee: Retired Vice President, Los Angeles Times
Mark Linehan*: Founder and President of Wynmark Corporation
Kathryn McKee*: President, Human Resources Consortia
Zach Rentz*: President, Graduate Students Association
Mark Schwartz*: Former President and CEO, Specialty Merchandise Corporation
Bruce Wilcox: Retired Co-Chairman of Cumberland Associates LLC

* Denotes members of the steering committee