Residents allowed to return home following cliff collapse in Santa Barbara County

A seaside apartment building in Santa Barbara County was evacuated Tuesday morning after the cliffside gave way following days of record-breaking rainfall.

It happened around 9:50 a.m. in Isla Vista, a beachside community adjacent to the University of California, Santa Barbara.

According to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, four apartment units were evacuated, displacing more than 45 people for several hours.

Photos shared by Scott Safechuck, public information officer for the Fire Department, showed a seaside patio cracked and sinking toward the ocean.

  • Photos shared by officials show the patio at an apartment building in Isla Vista that was evacuated due to a cliff collapse on Feb. 6, 2024. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
    Photos shared by officials show the patio at an apartment building in Isla Vista that was evacuated due to a cliff collapse on Feb. 6, 2024. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
  • Photos shared by officials show the patio at an apartment building in Isla Vista that was evacuated due to a cliff collapse on Feb. 6, 2024. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
    Photos shared by officials show the patio at an apartment building in Isla Vista that was evacuated due to a cliff collapse on Feb. 6, 2024. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
  • Photos shared by officials show the patio at an apartment building in Isla Vista that was evacuated due to a cliff collapse on Feb. 6, 2024. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
    Photos shared by officials show the patio at an apartment building in Isla Vista that was evacuated due to a cliff collapse on Feb. 6, 2024. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

The building is located on the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive, a road known for its apartment buildings overlooking the ocean.

Apartments on Del Playa are highly sought after by college students for their stunning views, but they have also been the subject of safety concerns due to the steep drop to the ground below.

The cliffs reach as high as 50 feet in some areas. In the past 30 years, 13 people have fallen to their deaths, most of which happened on Del Playa.

Most recently, 19-year-old Benny Schurmer, a student at Santa Barbara City College, died in a fall during Labor Day weekend. Officials said Schurmer fell from about 40 feet and was pronounced dead at the scene.

He fell from a cliff on the 6400 block of Del Playa Drive, only a few doors down from Tuesday’s slide.

In 2022, a 25-year-old Santa Monica man who was a UCSB alumnus fell to his death on the 6600 block of Del Playa.

Erosion on the precarious bluffs may be inevitable, but recent storms have heightened the danger for residents in Isla Vista.

On Tuesday, Fire Department officials deployed an aerial drone to survey the damage to the cliffs and the structures that sit atop them.

By 3:40 p.m., officials announced that residents could return to their homes following an inspection by the Santa Barbara County Building and Safety Division.

A fence has since been installed to block off access to the damaged patio.

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