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Supervisor Capps and parents of cliff fall victims hear from property owners after sending letter

Supervisor and parents send letter to Isla Vista Property owners in hopes of preventing more cliff fall fatalities and injuries

Since Laura Capps became the Santa Barbara County Supervisor who represents the district which includes Isla Vista, two more young men have died in cliff falls from private properties.

On Wednesday afternoon, Capps had a Zoom call with the parents of some of the 14 fatal cliff fall victims.

The names of parents of four other victims, along with photos of private properties are in a letter sent to property owners on Monday.

Capps talked with them over Zoom about the efforts to gather property owners and managers to work on solutions that will prevent another death.

The most recent cliff fall victims include Jake Parker, of San Diego, who fell during a daytime alumni party on April 20, 2024, and Benny Schurmer, of Ojai, who fell on September 2, 2023.

The letter urges property owners to raise the height of their fencing along the eroding cliff.

"Every time something happens in addition to the families who lost someone, these folks have to relive the tragedy in their lives," said Supervisor Capps. "[A]nd it is a parent's worst nightmare, I can't even fathom it, as a mom myself, so I appreciate, deeply, their advocacy, because they really helped inform our 8 point plan and it is their strength that helps kind of direct where we are going." 

-Laura Capps, Santa Barbara County Supervisor

Capps has also shared the plan with other parents and students.

She said students will help create a memorial with input from parents who have lost loved ones.

Capps has heard from property owners including one who said she felt offended by the letter.

"Well, to be completely honest, it's offensive considering Ms. Capps' office and the county only got back to us after April 17th with how to even go about this process," said Erin Eliza Murphey Doherty, a property owner on Del Playa. "[I]t's beyond comprehension that she can even criticize or question or inflame the community that property owners haven't been doing anything when we haven't even been given the proper guidance."

Murphey Doherty continued, "We were hoping that the policy would be like a quick, simple add to existing fences like add height...But instead, we have to go through whats anticipated to be a 12 to 18-month process to get to that point. And we're projected to spend about $40,000 per fence."

Capps said the goal is to prevent another fall.

"This is about keeping  people sage and preventing young lives from being cut short, "said Capps, " It is not about pitting people against each other, it is about working together."

She said every fatality and rescue is a reminder of the 14 victims.

"Every time something happens in addition to the families who lost someone, these folks have to relive the tragedy in their lives."

Since taking office, Capps says she has worked to add portable bathrooms and 6 foot fencing along the cliffs. County crews have added chain link to the existing fence at Walter Capps Park, named after Laura Capps' father.

Santa Barbara City College student Ty Franklin said he appreciates the height.

Franklin said it will remind people guests of the dangers.

The residents appear well aware of the danger.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
cliff safety
isla vista
santa barbara county
Supervisor Laura Capps

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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here


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