IV Beat Reporter
Students, property owners, and other stakeholders in the Isla Vista community gathered at the Santa Barbara Hillel on Monday, July 21, to exchange ideas for improvement of the town’s current government structure.
This discussion was part of an event put on by the Associated Students of the University of California, Santa Barbara and hosted by the office of the External Vice President of Local Affairs (EVPLA). Its goal, according to a Facebook event published by the EVPLA office, was to provide a forum for individuals to share their thoughts on potential approaches to Isla Vista’s self-governance.
“We have so many different communities… [with] so many different interests, so that’s why it’s so important to sit down and talk about what they want,” said EVPLA Beatrice Contreras. “Because if we exclude someone then that’s not helpful. That’s not a full picture of what Isla Vista can be.”
Though most of the event was devoted to small group discussion among attendees, Contreras began by giving a brief history of Isla Vista’s past and present governing bodies, including groups such as the Isla Vista Community Council, the Isla Vista Municipal Advisory Council, and the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District (IVRPD).
The IVRPD, which provides Isla Vista’s parks, recreation, and community facilities, is currently the only group involved in local governance that presides solely over Isla Vista. Services such as street lighting, street trees, gutters, curbs, and sidewalks are afforded to the town through its status as County Service Area 31 (CSA 31).
One idea discussed that evening was the possibility of Isla Vista becoming a community services district (CSD), which would essentially consolidate the governance of the IVRPD and CSA 31. The board elected to preside over Isla Vista as a CSD could render services such as roads, police, community facilities, transportation, garbage, and others, in addition to those services already provided by the IVRPD and CSA 31.
One concern related to the creation of a CSD is the requisite tax increase to property owners that would be enacted to sustain the institution.
“I think the caveat there and the thing that needs to be pointed out is that the people who would be voting on the CSD would be the residents within the boundaries of Isla Vista,” said fourth-year psychology major Cameron Schunk.
Schunk also suggested that a new governing body should make an effort to collaborate with Santa Barbara County to create special legislation that more specifically targets Isla Vista’s needs.
“I think that if we’re able to create a system that gives every stakeholder the voice that they need [by way of] a board of supervisors that includes someone from UCSB, one rotating student position, a long-term resident, a property investor, someone from the county… I think you provide everyone the voice that they want in Isla Vista,” he said.
Second-year public policy major Ashcon Minoiefar said his group highlighted property owner oversight, infrastructure, and police relations as key problems currently afflicting Isla Vista. He also suggested that a CSD would be the best means of facilitating the dialogue needed to resolve these issues.
“The CSD seems to be the most viable choice in that it will allow us to at least hold people accountable,” he said. “Even if we don’t have the legal teeth to necessarily create the exact change we want, we have the ability to more appropriately represent our area.”
One representative from the Isla Vista Coalition for Violence Prevention also listed several resources that her group felt could be improved through the creation of a new governing body. Among these were resources for undocumented residents, houseless residents, and children, as well as services that would emphasize mental health over police action.
Chris Mercier of Wolfe & Associates, which manages numerous Isla Vista properties, recommended the creation of a community advisory committee that could develop new ways of using existing resources to resolve the issues mentioned that evening.
“As the community meets in these kinds of forums, we can share ideas and maybe tap into resources that are already available, just perhaps acting autonomously of one another,” he said.
The EVPLA office will hold another town meeting on Oct. 7, with plans to continue the discussion of Isla Vista self-governance.