Isla Vista Food Cooperative

Founded in 1972, the Isla Vista Food Cooperative is the only natural and organic foods consumer cooperative in Santa Barbara County. Though a mainstay for some, the Co-op was often ignored by many of its I.V. neighbors and visitors, not realizing what lay behind its inconspicuous storefront. Haphazard parking of cars and bikes obscured the entry and patrons were relegated to hanging out in the parking lot next to the nearby trash dumpsters if they wanted to eat their to-go items on the spot or chat with fellow customers and passersby.

These simple low-cost façade improvements, funded in part by the now defunct Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency, give the Co-op a more visible and recognizable street presence with new wood cladding, signage, bicycle parking, permeable paving and a outdoor dining patio that incorporates miniature fruit trees and eatable herb plantings, all inspired by the cooperative’s hippie roots and ongoing mission to promote a healthier lifestyle and environment.

With the improvements both sales and memberships increased and the community gained a valuable asset in the street-side patio. The Co-Op’s success speaks to the positive power of redevelopment, a potential now lost with California’s elimination of RDA’s.