As Santa Barbara County residents cast their ballots for the Nov. 8 presidential election, they will also make a lesser-known but similarly historic choice: whether or not to back Measures E and F, the first ballot legislation to come out of a 40-year campaign for self-governance in Isla Vista.
If passed, Measure E would establish a Community Service District funded in part by Measure F, an eight percent utility user tax placed on IV residents. The CSD would establish a tenant mediation service and a police cadet program, as well as manage graffiti abatement and sidewalk maintenance, among other services.
Measure F would tax Isla Vista residents’ use of electricity, gas, water, and waste disposal to fund the CSD’s salaries and services, together with a $200,000 yearly pledge from the University of California, Santa Barbara that will be reviewed after seven years.
Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3), approved on Oct. 7 of last year, outlines the functions of the prospective CSD and the formation of a board of seven directors. Five of those directors will be elected this year, with one serving two-year terms and four serving four-year terms. For this inaugural election, however, two positions with four-year terms will serve two-year terms instead.
Two additional directors will be appointed, one by by UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang and the other by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, respectively.
Seven candidates vying for positions on the prospective CSD board met in the Isla Vista Theater 2 on Oct. 27 to address Measures E and F in front of an audience of University of California, Santa Barbara students and other local residents. Andrew Gabriel Pragin, Michael Kile, Father Jon-Stephen Hedges, Spencer Brandt, Natalie Jordan, Ethan Bertrand and Jay Freeman responded to questions prepared by the UCSB Office of the External Vice President of Local Affairs.
Pragin, in his opening remarks, said what appeared to be the theme of the event: “The powers that be need to be told things, and you need the representatives to tell them.”
Together the candidates answered questions about how the CSD board, should Measure E pass, might address local issues like law enforcement, landlord and tenant relationships, and the experiences of marginalized groups within IV. At the core of the self-governance campaign in Isla Vista is the belief that a CSD would manage such issues more efficiently than if Isla Vista remained dependent on the county for public services as an unincorporated community.
One of those issues that drew some of the most passionate responses was the nature of renting in Isla Vista. Brandt, a second year history of public policy major, complained of a “culture among the landlords that allows them to take advantage of students,” formed from the high volume of first-time renters in IV.
Jordan, a third year political science major who serves as Associated Students Internal Vice-President, described an incident where her renter evicted her by text message after she reported cockroaches in her apartment.
Measure E proposes a tenant mediation program to provide a setting for discussion between property owners and renters, supplementing the Isla Vista Tenants Union. The new program would lack arbitration ability, however. In addition, the CSD would run a police cadet program, parking district, and new community center.
In many ways, Measures E and F form what Hedges called “a well-informed experiment.”
It is one that grew out of the tumultuous year of 2014, which included sexual assault cases, a riot, and a tragic shooting. California Assemblymember Das Williams wrote in AB 3 that these events “brought focus to the unique needs of Isla Vista that can only be addressed by direct, local governance.”
Though the movement for self-governance in Isla Vista has its roots in the 1970s, Measures E and F comprise the first ballot legislation to come out of the campaign.
The organization Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes leads the opposition against Measure F, in fear that the tax will raise the cost of living in IV enough to discourage possible renters. UCSB alumnus Jason Garshfield, perhaps the most outspoken opponent of Measures E and F, called the proposed Board of Directors a “quasi-totalitarian University-dominated bureaucracy” in a Daily Nexus op-ed earlier this month.
Majority approval is required for Measure E. Two-thirds support is needed for Measure F. If the former is passed without the latter, the CSD would need to pass the tax before a November 1, 2023 deadline, or be dissolved.