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Isla Vista


The community of Isla Vista, commonly known as “I.V.”, is one-half square mile in area and located adjacent to UCSB’s main campus. Approximately half of I.V.’s 23,000 residents are UCSB students; other residents include Santa Barbara City College students, families with children, a few UCSB faculty and staff members, and long term residents.

Originally a thriving Chumash Indian settlement when the Spanish arrived in the mid-1500s, Isla Vista secured a place in contemporary history between 1968 and 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, with a series of civil disturbances. Local and national media covered arrests, riots, and clashes between protesters and the local law enforcement, and then-Governor Ronald Reagan called in the California National Guard for support. Out of the turmoil of this era emerged a number of successful grassroots community-building efforts, culminating in the creation of health and human service agencies and non-profits to serve Isla Vista residents.

Isla Vista is an unincorporated part of Santa Barbara County represented by an elected 3rd District Supervisor who is one member of the County Board of Supervisors. The current supervisor, Joan Hartmann, maintains a regular presence in Isla Vista, meeting frequently with students, other I.V. residents, and university administrators. The only local governmental agency in Isla Vista is the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District, which maintains over 50 acres of parks and public space in the community.


Isla Vista defies simple definition. Commonly thought of as a laid-back student community by the beach, Isla Vista is in reality a densely-populated urban community with a complicated set of social dynamics. Despite it's diminutive size, Isla Vista is served by a number of churches and a Hillel center; a teen center; 18 parks; over 100 businesses (including many restaurants); two markets; a food co-op; a public elementary school; and a nine-hole frisbee golf course. UCSB owns and leases property in Isla Vista including several apartment buildings, a residence hall, and two large lecture facilities.

Students who choose to live in Isla Vista are attracted by the beautiful ocean views from apartments and houses on oceanside Del Playa Drive (also known as “D. P.”); the convenience of being able to walk, bike, or skateboard to class; the ability to shop for and take care of basic needs without a car (although Zip Car maintains several loaner cars in Isla Vista and on campus); and the benefits of communal living (living in households with multiple roommates/housemates).

Students cite noise, crowding, lack of parking, and high rents among the challenges of living in Isla Vista. And, as in any college town, there are problems related to the irresponsible use of alcohol by both student residents and out-of-town visitors. Law enforcement in Isla Vista is under the jurisdiction of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, an agency of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. The Foot Patrol, established in 1970 and currently located at 6504 Trigo Road, is staffed by Santa Barbara County Sheriff's officers, UCSB Campus Police officers, and the California Highway Patrol. Officers from the three agencies respond to community safety concerns on foot, bicycle, and by car, making them flexible, responsive, and approachable.

As a densely populated area, the most frequent crime is property theft — most typically the result of people leaving their doors unlocked or property unsecured. On weekends, when outsiders come to party, the population can occasionally rise to 30,000 or 40,000. Based on law enforcement experience, safety in Isla Vista largely depends on individual responsibility.

UCSB works with residents and law enforcement in Isla Vista on safety issues and education and actively addresses alcohol and other drug problems on campus and in the community of Isla Vista through a multifaceted program comprising education, early intervention, environmental change, and enforcement. A broad array of projects and initiatives in this area are coordinated by a working group of campus and community members, professional counselors in the Alcohol and Drug Program, and peer educators.

Despite the challenges presented by this community, there is a vibrancy and dynamism to life in Isla Vista that is without match elsewhere. Students who choose to live in Isla Vista can find expert assistance from UCSB’s Community Housing Office (CHO), which provides rental listings, education, mediation, and assistance to first-time renters. The staff of CHO can provide advice to both students and parents. Parents are strongly urged to carefully consider the pros and cons of their student living and renting in the more impacted areas of Isla Vista, such as on Del Playa Drive. Rents can be higher on Del Playa Drive, and these apartments and houses, particularly in the 6500 and 6600 blocks, are most often the location of student parties. Before co-signing a lease agreement for any rental in Isla Vista, be sure to check the lease language for, and ask property managers/owners about, policies and consequences for alcohol use and parties on their property. Be aware that a new Social Host Liability Ordinance passed by the County in 2010 and applicable in Isla Vista holds individuals legally responsible for hosting, or knowingly providing a place for underage drinking to occur.


UCSB maintains a presence in the community of Isla Vista in many ways. Students, staff and faculty are involved with a wide range of educational, outreach, cultural, and volunteer community projects. UCSB’s Campus Learning Assistance Services (CLAS) provides group academic tutorials and learning skills workshops on-site in Isla Vista, and the Alcohol and Drug Program (part of UCSB’s Student Health) runs its College Alcohol and Substance Education (CASE) Program there. UCSB’s Associated Students (student government) maintains close ties with, involvement in, and funding for I.V. through its Isla Vista Community Relations Commission and the Isla Vista Tenants Union. Both of these organizations are supported by the Isla Vista Community Advisor, a staff member who works for Associated Students.

Isla Vista provides UCSB students with a learning laboratory right in their own backyard. Community service opportunities are available on every street corner. Students can mentor local teens after school at the Isla Vista Teen Center, tutor a second-grader to read at I.V. Elementary School, or wrestle with a policy or funding issue during a board meeting of the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District. UCSB students living in Isla Vista can also enhance their understanding of a political science, sociology, or psychology class while learning how to be a member of a household and a community. Parents are invited to visit and explore the community.

Parents, please help your students enhance their safety and be good citizens of Isla Vista by sharing these safety tips with them if they will live in or frequent Isla Vista.