IV Self-Governance: Past, Present, and Future


Hector Sanchez Castaneda
Isla Vista Beat Reporter

A Heated Night

In the first hour of Feb. 25, 1970, protesters lit a Bank of America branch in Isla Vista afire. The next day, the Los Angeles Times’s front page read: “UC Santa Barbara: YOUTHS RAMPAGE.” The article reported how onlookers chanted “burn, baby, burn” as the flames engulfed the bank, and quoted people saying things like “The Bank of America breaks human laws. Death to corporations.” The anti-war sentiment against the Vietnam conflict was at its highest in IV that night.

The following day, Gov. Ronald Reagan called in the National Guard to the streets of IV to pacify what he declared a “state of extreme emergency.”

After that abrupt shove into the national spotlight, IV leaders and residents began to talk about cityhood and independence. At the time, IV was an unincorporated territory, meaning it depended on the county for major public services. Proponents of cityhood or self-governance argued that IV would fare better with a concentrated group of individuals that had IV’s best interests at heart.

However, as IV withdrew back into the shadows, all attempts at cityhood failed, and local community governments and advisory boards were short-lived—the only exception being the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, which is currently the only form of self-governance in IV after it was created in 1972.

Then, in 2014, IV was violently thrown into the spotlight again after nearly 45 years. But this time, the events responsible rocked the sea-side community like never before. A riot. A tragedy.

A Modern Solution

The big question that came from these events was this: would IV be better equipped to handle these situations were it not an unincorporated territory? State Assemblymember Das Williams — who represents district 37, which includes IV — believed the answer was yes.

Williams introduced Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3) into the State Legislature after a report by a committee formed by UCSB trustees and several months of community meetings aimed at finding a solution, according to Field Representative for William’s office Cameron Schunk. The bill aims at establishing a Community Services District (CSD) funded by a Utility User Tax (UUT) on only “electricity, garbage disposal, gas, sewage, or water services” for residents of IV, reads the bill.

After nine months of surfing the Assembly and Senate, undergoing numerous amendments, and passing through various committees, AB 3 passed both houses on Sept. 11, 2015. The bill is now awaiting its future on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, who has to pass or veto the bill by Oct. 11.

If Gov. Brown signs the bill, it would place the matter of whether or not to create the CSD on the November 2016 general ballot. Approval of its funding mechanism, a UUT, would require a separate vote on the same ballot. If the formation of the CSD passes but the UUT is denied, the district would have until Jan. 1, 2023 to pass the tax or the district would be dissolved.

AB 3 outlines the possibility to “fund and … [operate] a parking district, a tenant mediation program, a Municipal Advisory Council, an Area Planning Commission, [additional] public safety services, and [to contract] enhanced building inspection services,” according to Schunk.

AB 3 is not meant to replace the county’s present services, but to increase and better them.

In 2007, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the implementation of what they call the “Isla Vista Master Plan.” The plan establishes the guidelines for IV’s infrastructure and zoning developments, among other topics. The creation of a CSD would not greatly affect this plan, but it would “provide Isla Vistans with greatly enhanced levels of input as to the execution of the plan,” Schunk wrote.

UCSB Promises Financial Support

Even though university-owned property will be exempt from being part of the CSD, UCSB has stated a financial commitment to sustaining and supporting the CSD if it is formed. In a letter from the university’s Director of Capital Development Chuck Haines, the university committed itself to an annual contribution of $200,000 until 2024, when the funds would be reviewed for future years.

“It is so important for the university to be doing this,” said External Vice President for Local Affairs Paola Dela Cruz. “Our students, whether they live in IV or on-campus, spend so much time in this community.”

Dela Cruz stated that she wants to help educate those interested in more information about the bill in the upcoming year.

“I want to make sure that we create educational forums for these conversations to take place and for students to really choose for themselves,” she said.

What’s Next?

The key difference between this attempt at self-governance and previous ones is local participation, according to Schunk.

“Never before in Isla Vista’s history have its citizens been able to vote for their right to self-determination, which means that the results of this effort will be different from those that have come before,” Schunk said.

“The best thing any student can do while living in IV is to stay informed with everything that is happening,” Dela Cruz said. “The perfect way to do that is to get involved with Associated Students, with the EVPLA office, just look into what it is that we are doing and feel free to ask any question.”

AB 3 meetings will be held weekly in IV every Tuesday from 6-8 PM in the IV Clinic Building.