Isla Vista Shooting, Part I – The Town Itself

I’m sure all of you heard about the horrible mass killing which took place in Isla Vista last weekend.

Isla Vista is a small, crowded, neighborhood adjacent to (but not a part of) UC Santa Barbara.

I’m a UCSB alumni and I spent a few years of my life living in Isla Vista.

My daughter is a recent UCSB graduate and she also spent her college years living in Isla Vista.

To say the killings hit “close to home” is putting it mildly.

Since the tragedy, the news has been filled nonstop with a lot of information,

And a lot of misinformation.

Some of the comments I’ve heard and read have really bothered me.

I find I have a lot I want to say.

First and foremost, my heart BREAKS for the families of the victims.

I can’t fathom the pain they’re in.

They’re living every parent’s worst nightmare.

Many of you will recall, it was not long ago when my son (while attending Wake Forest University) was the target of a student who had a psychotic break.

It was a terrifying experience for my son and our entire family.

That particular student, after way too much hemming and hawing by WFU, eventually tried to abduct my son’s girlfriend, was caught by police, and put on an involuntary psyche hold.

I guess what I’m saying is the recent situation in Isla Vista “hit home” for me for many different reasons.

Now, I’d like to tell you a little about Isla Vista.

Many years ago, Isla Vista was a small town/village of almost entirely UCSB students.

It was not, and is still not, owned by UCSB.  

UCSB does own on-campus housing/dorms, but they do not run/own/control the town of Isla Vista.

IV is a town of apartments/houses and shops and restaurants owned by, and run by, private individuals.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s Isla Vista students were very active in the “hippie” movement.

(This, by the way, was ALSO the case at the vast majority of universities in our country at the time.)

In any case, Isla Vista (better known as “IV” to locals) seemed to get stuck with a permanent “party” stigma as a result.

I’m sure being a beach town has only magnified this perception.

If we flash forward to the current decade and year, a lot has changed.

The often rundown housing in IV still exists along with a few newer buildings.

The main mode of transportation in IV continues to be beach “cruiser” bicycles.

UCSB has become one of the top universities in the country.

Students dare not think about applying unless they’ve got a gpa  OVER  4.0 and a plethora of AP class credits.

(There may be an occasional exception made for athletes and/or random other university needs.)

Isla Vista is no longer a community of just UCSB students.

A lot of Santa Barbara City College students (SBCC is about a half hour away) have decided it’s “cool” to live there too.

For that matter, a lot of college-aged people, whether they’re students or not, are attracted to the idea of housing with close beach proximity.

The town is now a huge mix of people – some UCSB students, some SBCC students, some non-students, and some families/individuals who have settled there due to available housing.

I’m explaining this to help non-locals understand the current setting of Isla Vista.

There is an active and very visible police force in Isla Vista.

On weekends, when “outsiders” often show up attempting to “crash” college parties, the number of officers is increased even further.

I felt it was important to give you a feel for the town itself before I discuss (in upcoming posts) the actual tragedy from last weekend.

One of the first reporter questions I heard posed to the Santa Barbara police was something along the lines of,

“What does this say about Isla Vista from the riots in the sixties to this incident?”


I’ve never heard such a ridiculous question.

Students rioted in the late 60’s (or was it the early 70’s)?

A pscychopath (who, by the way, was NOT a UCSB student) went on a random killing spree last weekend.

The two have nothing to do with each other.

There is no “pattern” there.

There is no cause and effect relationship.

One person said, “Maybe this will make Isla Vista safe.”


Isla Vista has been as safe as any other college town.

(Yes, bad stuff happens there sometimes … mostly small robberies of iPods/phones when people leave their doors unlocked.)

I’m not saying Isla Vista is a perfect town.

It’s a college town and it has college town problems.

In recent years, an influx of non UCSB residents has increased some of those problems.

But …?

Isla Vista was not the cause of last weekend’s tragedy.

The cause of last weekend’s tragedy was Elliot Rodger.

(Just as Adam Lanza was the cause of the Sandy Hook tragedy.)

In fact, if anything, kudos to Santa Barbara and the Isla Vista police officers are deserved.

Elliot Rodger said he had every intention of “slaughtering” many more people.

It’s amazing he was stopped as quickly as he was … just six minutes after police dispatch received the first call.

No, the problem is not Isla Vista.

The problem is bigger and scarier than that.

The problem is with the Adam Lanza’s and the Elliot Rodger’s of our world –

And our apparent inability, as a society, to come up with a solution to stop them.

**  Click here to read Isla Vista Shooting, Part II – The Blame Game **

16 Responses to “Isla Vista Shooting, Part I – The Town Itself”

    • Suzanne

      And, sadly, incidents like this are becoming common.

  1. Jan's Sushai Bar

    I thought about your son and the crazy kid that gave your family so much grief recently – some idiot brought a gun on campus at Kent and discharged it outside of their dorm right before school let out for the year – the dorm, coincidentally, right next to The Young One’s.

    There’s nothing like waking up and seeing that your kid’s school was on lock down the night before due to a “isolated shooting” first thing in the morning, let me tell you.

    • Suzanne

      I heard about that.
      There are a lot of unbalanced people in the world, and sadly we never know who will fall victim next. I’m glad your son is fine.

  2. Judi

    Misogyny played a role in this tragedy. Mental illness played a role in this tragedy. Easy access to guns played a role. You’re right in that Isla Vista is not the problem. In my mind, it’s exactly what a college town should be. Not long ago, a student with a gun was caught outside my building on campus. I’ve had to review “active shooter” scenarios with my student staff a few times this year, to make sure they know where in our building to go to be safe. Scary times, indeed.

    • Suzanne

      It’s terrible that I feel the need to talk to my son who’s a freshman in Texas what to do if someone starts shooting. This is now “normal” for college. Our world is screwed up.

  3. Mj

    I totally agree with your statement, “The problem is with the Adam Lanza’s and the Elliot Rodger’s of our world.”
    I am not pointing the finger at the parents of these trouble young men because we all are responsible for our own decisions and actions, however; in this day and age, there is a breakdown of values and morals in not only children but in adults/parents. I believe if parents were taught how to raise positive kids in this negative world, teach their children how to develop their full potential, prepare them to win life’s biggest battles and discipline their children effectively our children would turn out a whole lot different and respect people and the lives of others.
    I hear many parents disciplining their children with such verbal intensity using words that would typically be heard among rival gang member that it just blows me away.
    Discipline is necessary for sure, but we should also be speaking life into our children by reminding them of the good they do instead of just tearing them down for the wrong they have done. There needs to be discipline metered out for wrong choices and actions along with unconditional love for who they are.
    Albert Einstein said it best, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”

    • Suzanne

      There are so many factors that go into “making” the people responsible for these mass killings. And now, if we could only figure out what to do to stop them.

  4. Judi

    Jumping in again to say that one big problem I see is that many kids today aren’t being allowed to fail and taught how to cope with failure and learn from it. So many “helicopter parents” swoop in and try to keep their children away from anything difficult. This does not serve them well in the long run.

    • Suzanne

      There are certainly a LOT of helicopter parents in Orange County.

    • kristin

      Funny reading this today as I was just talking with my therapist about my helicopter parenting that I didn’t even realize I was doing. I am now working really hard to pull back. My child is only 7 years old so I still have time to stop and give her better life tools.

      • Suzanne

        I think as parents we always have to fight the urge to “save” our kids from difficult situations. It’s natural to want to do it, but it’s so much better for them to learn how to fail, how to overcome obstacles, and how disappointment can lead to determination and success. Good for you!

  5. Aunt Baaa

    Until we deal with the fact that we systematically dismantled the mental health safety net in this country we will continue to have these incidents.

    Gun control laws will not fix this. We all know that it is far too easy to procure weapons illegally skirting any safeguards that may be put in place. That is just the way this country is set up.

    Read Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. It is the only interview ever given by the parents of one of the Columbine killers. It is very illuminating. There was also an excellent interview in The New Yorker with Adam Lanza’s father by Andrew Solomon as well. Blaming the parents is too simple.

    Our society is sick. We have kids driving BMWs and wearing $300 sunglasses at 22. I’m sorry, but how could he possibly have done anything at his age to earn those things? Of course he felt entitled. Of course it never occurred to him that the reason girls didn’t like him was that he was a jerk. Of course he believed that by simply wanting something it would (and should) be instantly delivered to him no questions asked (even women).

    Watch his videos. He is almost like a robot. No emotion, no passion about anything, even getting even with everyone. Being suicidal is one thing, but these young, white males (these shootings are committed by them almost excusively) are so enraged that killing themselves simply isn’t big enough. They have to hurt/maim/murder as many others as possible.

    I feel incredibly sad for his family. They will be blamed for this and I guarantee you they are every bit as puzzled by his behavior as we all are today.

  6. Suzanne

    I did watch his video and I thought he was a sociopath.
    He was not, however, white.
    He was of mixed race … and he was also a racist.


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