Stakeholders and Officials Discuss Powers of Potential New District


Kelsey Knorp
Isla Vista Beat Reporter

Isla Vista stakeholders are continuing to work with California State Assemblymember Das Williams and his staff to decide on specific language for Assembly Bill 3, which calls on the state of California to create a community services district (CSD) as a means of local self-governance for Isla Vista.

This collaboration has been facilitated by weekly local meetings, led by Williams’ staff. The objective of these discussions is to narrow down what services the Isla Vista community believes a CSD should be able to provide if implemented.

Field representative Darcel Elliott led the meeting held last Tuesday, Jan. 20, at the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic building.

“We’ve been focusing most of our conversations on services, so that we could talk about what kind of structure would be the best to provide the services that IV needs,” Elliott said.

Discussions that particular evening centered around lighting, area planning, and the establishment of a community center.

Many stakeholders offered different ideas about how IV might use a community center, which would be comprised of vacant space at the clinic building as well as the adjacent county-owned church property. Some proposals for use have already been submitted to the county for consideration, including one from the University of California, Santa Barbara aimed at expanding its psychological services and alcohol and drug abuse programs.

Pegeen Soutar, who serves on the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District Board of Directors, said she worries about the exclusivity of the programs proposed by UCSB.

“As far as [non-student] community members who go to them if they have issues, they could be referred to someone else, but they would not be able to get, really, any counseling or help in depth,” she said.

Another formal proposal has been submitted by Isla Vista Youth Projects, which operates programs such as the Isla Vista Children’s Center and the Family Resource Center. Other ideas discussed at the meeting included use as a sobering center on weekends, revolving office space for different social services, and a reading room for local children.

In addition to funding the use of such a center, a CSD could also potentially generate revenue needed to sustain increased street lighting throughout Isla Vista.

Though the Santa Barbara County has already funded a project responsible for almost 200 new street lights, not many funds are available for their ongoing maintenance. Such funds are usually derived from IV’s status as County Service Area 31, but according to Elliott, CSA 31 is currently almost bankrupt.

Meeting attendees also discussed creation of an area planning commission as either an alternative to a CSD or a power included in the governance of such a district.

Williams said that he hopes his bill will create a means of sustaining the progress he and Third District County Supervisor Doreen Farr have made in Isla Vista during their terms as elected officials.

“It is hard to see that the gains that Doreen and I can make as individuals will be sustained by the institutions that we work with after we’re gone,” he said. “And these institutions should work all the time, or at least most of the time, not just right now when people really care about Isla Vista.”

Williams said that so far, the most popular ideas for CSD services have included lighting maintenance, contracts for new safety services, and the creation of a rental mediation task force to improve conflict resolution between landlords and tenants. The most likely source of revenue to sustain the district would be a new utility user tax of one to five percent, applied to resources such as electricity or water.

The board of a CSD would likely have five or seven members, who could be elected and/or appointed. Though elections could be held at large, as has been the case for the IVRPD Board of Directors, Williams suggested that implementing a district-based voting system could allow for better representation on the board of a CSD.

Farr, a supporter of the bill, said that the four-year terms required of IVRPD board members have historically posed a challenge for students wishing to participate. Specialized, shorter terms could be included in the design of a CSD governing IV, though some stakeholders have concerns that this would interrupt the continuity of such a body.

“What happens then is that if you have too many people that are unable to fill even one four-year term, it makes it difficult for an agency to decide on a plan and keep to it, when different people are coming in all the time,” Farr said. “And so we want to figure out if there’s a way to have more longevity on the board.”

Alice Gilbert, president of the UCSB College Republicans, does not feel that a new governing body will prevent the recurrence of incidents such as the sexual assaults and riots seen in IV over the past year. She furthermore feels that it would be unfair for short-term residents, such as students, to dictate local decisions that also affect long-term residents.

“I don’t think that any government could be put in place that would accurately reflect these annual changes and also be effective,” she said in an email, referring to residential turnover as new students migrate in and graduates migrate out.

Contrarily, president of the UCSB Campus Democrats Krishna Hammond said that a CSD would help to alleviate some of the problems with upkeep and services that IV suffers as an unincorporated area of the county.

“The county lacks the bandwidth to address our needs while also managing other, wealthier unincorporated areas such as Montecito,” Hammond said in an email.

Substantial language for the bill must be provided to the Assembly by early March. If subsequent phases lead the measure to be placed on the 2016 ballot, it would need a two-thirds vote from IV residents to approve the creation of a CSD and any taxation needed to sustain it.

“No CSD is going to be formed without the vast majority of Isla Vista supporting it,” Williams said.