IV Beat Reporter
Assemblymember Das Williams and his staff rallied members of the Isla Vista community to the Santa Barbara Hillel on Thursday, Feb. 5, for the first of three forums aimed at outlining the powers and structure of a potential community services district that would be established in IV by Williams’ Assembly Bill 3.
Though Williams’ office has held weekly stakeholders’ meetings since the bill’s introduction in early December, the goal of these “town hall” gatherings is narrowing those early discussions to determine specific language for AB 3 by early March.
The first meeting focused exclusively on services stakeholders felt should be provided by a CSD. The next forum will address taxation needed to sustain such a district, with the last determining the actual structure of the governing body.
Williams, who grew up in IV, recounted to the event attendees of the cycle he has seen of shifting attention and negligence toward the town over the years. This cycle results in plentiful support and resources at times when IV seems threatened, as in the wake of the riots or mass shooting last year, but this support eventually dissolves, returning it to its former state of neglect.
“Then something really bad happens, and everybody pulls together and tries to do something,” Williams said, “and then there’s attention and resources. But unfortunately during those times of attention and resources, there’s not a structural change, and so eventually there isn’t the same attention and resources.”
The intent of AB 3 to create a CSD through the state legislature rather than the Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission is based on a recommendation by a committee of the University of California, Santa Barbara Board of Trustees. Williams said that this process would allow for certain “permutations” outside the parameters of a traditional CSD, such as non-property-based taxation, a district-based voting system, or a board comprised of both appointed and elected officials.
“It’s sort of like, instead of the full suite of services that a city would have and the full cost of those services, [in] a community services district essentially you pick a few services and you pay for them, arguably in a more affordable way than city government,” Williams said.
Upon arrival at the forum, every attendee received a printed agenda with a number pertaining to one of 10 tables, each of which had been assigned a type of public service. The small groups were expected to discuss concerns relating to each category and contribute ideas about which services a CSD should provide.
The 10 types of service examined that evening consisted of: community advocacy, parking and transportation, area planning, housing, health and social services, a community center, infrastructure, public safety, lighting, and arts and culture.
The small group assigned to area planning services called for the creation of an area planning commission that would provide oversight of local landlords, as well as more basic, affordable housing and increased resident input about the kinds of businesses permitted to operate in IV.
“As a government entity [it needs] to mediate property and business interests against one another, so the business can build up the community while not stymieing the interests of the community,” said fourth-year biochemistry major Alexander Maitan, one of two representatives to speak on behalf of the planning group.
As an example of IV’s need for more affordable housing, Maitan reported increases in rejected applications to local housing cooperatives as they become more crowded, while newer complexes such as the LOOP Apartments charge an average monthly rate of $1,000 per month.
Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District board member Jacob Lebell was one of three representatives to speak on behalf of the small group assigned to address questions of infrastructure. He made the unique suggestion to establish a municipal broadband internet network as a means of sidestepping the steep rates of local internet providers.
“Maybe that could even be a source of raising a little bit of revenue,” he said, “and just kind of bringing jobs and the expertise of the university, to be more involved in the community that’s apart of it.”
Other ideas put forth by the group included bike path improvements, increased bike access to the UCSB campus, signage to better control Pardall Road traffic, and new public restrooms on the 6700 and 6800 blocks of IV streets, where there are not as many commercial locations with accessible facilities.
LuAnn Miller, executive director of Isla Vista Youth Projects, had numerous contributions to share on behalf of her group, which addressed health and social services. Many of these ideas centered around the use of the vacant, county-owned space at the Isla Vista Clinic building as their venue.
Miller and her group members proposed the implementation of mental health services, expanded clinic services, child care, or various county services to which few long-term residents have direct access. Though many students are afforded these services through school programs, many families must arrange transportation out of Isla Vista to obtain them.
“How can we make Isla Vista be a healthier community?” she asked, imparting the basis for her choice of services. “What does that take, to have a healthier lifestyle and to advocate for that?”
Many issues discussed in previous stakeholders’ meetings were revisited, including lighting maintenance, increased public safety services, and the implementation of a rental mediation task force. All continued to receive the same high levels of support they had seen in earlier meetings.
In preparation for the next forum, to take place on Feb. 21, Williams and his staff handed out surveys asking which services event attendees feel AB 3 should prioritize. Williams urged everyone to complete them to ensure that their opinions are accurately reflected when decisions are made about bill language.
“We talked about things in a little bit of detail in a qualitative fashion,” he said, “but we need to quantify it.”