Legendary Carmen Lodise publishes second edition
Carmen Augustine Lodise came to Isla Vista in 1972 as a research assistant to cultural anthropologist Leslie White, a UCSB professor.
He left in 2005 to live in Barra de Navidad, Mexico, a fishing village 125 miles south of Puerto Vallarta.
During his time in Isla Vista, Mr. Lodise was elected to the Isla Vista Community Council and Isla Vista Park Board; became publisher, editor-in-chief and political writer for the Isla Vista Free Press; served as director of the Santa Barbara Freedom Clinic and economic consultant to the city of Santa Barbara; worked on community organizing projects for the Isla Vista Community Center and the Center for Community Education; ran as a Democratic candidate for Congress; was finance editor for the Mexico City News and led three campaigns to establish an incorporated city of Isla Vista.
No wonder he was often referred to as “an Isla Vista legend.”
The native of Jackson, Mich., also found time to write “Isla Vista: A Citizen’s History,” first self-published on newsprint in 1990 as a 64-page booklet that was banned at the UCSB Bookstore.
“It was launched in 2002 as a website, receiving over 1.5 million hits in its first few years, which encouraged me to publish the book’s first edition in 2008,” Mr. Lodise told the New-Press in an email from his home in Barra de Navidad.
A second edition was released last November with almost 100 new pages, including more than 50 photographs and charts in seven new chapters by five new authors. The soft-cover, mini coffee table book costs $22.50.
Included are histories of the Food Coop, Youth Project, Redevelopment Agency, Community Center, Community Services District and the Tragedy of 2014.
“I decided to publish the second edition because a lot of important events took place in Isla Vista in the decade following publication of the book’s first edition: the Food Co-op buying its building, formation of the Community Services District and the securing of a community center,” said Mr. Lodise, 81. “I wanted the book to remain relevant, but I no longer spent much time in Isla Vista so I recruited some folks who do to write about these events and more.”
They include Jonathan Abboud, a lead organizer of the CSD, who wrote the chapter, “Building Our Isla Vista: A Self-Governance Story”;
Frank Thompson and Mr. Lodise, “An Isla Vista Community Center — At Last”; Jeff Walsh, “The Isla Vista Food Co-op”; LuAnn Miller, “The Isla Vista Youth Projects”; and Melinda Burns, “Isla Vista: “Investors’ Paradise.”
Among the other chapters are “From Indian Settlement to Student Ghetto,” “The Civil Disturbances of 1969-70,” “The Search for a City,” “The Joint Rolling Contests,” “Isla Vista Gorilla Theater and Fabulous Strombolis,” “Intriguing History of the I.V. Clinic Building” and “The Isla Vista Tree: Gone But Not Forgotten.”
Before Mr. Lodise retired to Mexico in 2004, he was asked to express an opinion about what would be good for Isla Vista.
“There are really two issues. Number one, don’t allow anybody but college seniors have automobiles in Isla Vista … Secondly, the Del Playa war zone should be lit up like the Venice boardwalk, which would totally change the atmosphere. There should be nice pretty lights along there with nice tiled sidewalks and trash bins. With that type of environment, people will treat each other with respect.”
Noting changes that have taken place since he left, Mr. Lodise said,
“Isla Vista was a much nicer place when the drug-of-choice was marijuana. Now it’s alcohol, and people aren’t nearly so thoughtful.
“The IVCSD is the most promising development in self-governance since the formation of the Park District back in 1972. And that wouldn’t have happened if a kid who grew up in I.V. hadn’t become a respected member of the state assembly – Das Williams, who wrote the forward for the new book.
“The Food Co-op buying its building has been another giant step,” Mr. Lodise continued. “And the establishment of a community-owned community center is a remarkable accomplishment. A lot of positive things have happened in the last five or six years. But some scary stuff, too, like the Rodger episode and the so-called Deltopia ‘riot,’
“I appreciate that the university has finally recognized that at least some advancement in I.V. self-governance is in their interest, too.”
Before moving to Isla Vista, Mr. Lodise spent three years studying chemistry, biology and history at Jackson Junior College and the University of Michigan. He also studied and taught economics at the University of Houston, North Dakota State University and Western Michigan University.
From 1995 through 2003, he served on the steering committee to construct the monument to the worldwide anti-war movement during the Vietnam Era that now stands in Isla Vista’s Perfect Park.
In 2013,Mr. Lodise came out of retirement to participate in the campaign to establish the town’s permanent community center.
About his life in Barra de Navidad, which he first visited in 1968 and bought a house in 2003, he said, “My son and I own two-thirds of a three-bedroom, two-bath home on two lots in a working class neighborhood of a fishing village of 5,000 people. A long-time friend from Santa Barbara, John Smith, owns the other third.
“I spend time in the garden and go for a swim with a glass of wine to watch the sunset at a seaside hotel pretty much daily, although that has been curtailed by the pandemic. I also watch the news and some sporting events with Larry Segall, a manager of the I.V. Food Co-op in the 1970s, who — coincidentally — lives across the street here in Barra de Navidad.”
There are also annual visits back to Isla Vista, where he occasionally can be found mid-morning at I.V.’s Bagel Cafe.
“I stop on my way to my sister’s house in Cayucos for the family Thanksgiving dinner,” Mr. Lodise said. “I spent seven weeks in the area in the fall of 2019. However, there was no family get-together last year because of the pandemic.”