Photo by Nicholas Torrano / The Bottom Line

Nkechi Ikem
Staff Writer

A recent letter addressed to the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors suggests there remains interest among community and student leaders in bringing a marijuana dispensary to Isla Vista, but new regulations approved by the board have made the move a little more difficult.

The Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors approved both a ban to outdoor cultivation of marijuana within 1,500 feet of residential zones and schools, and a ban of cannabis businesses within 750 feet of a school or “sensitive receptors,” in a meeting held last Tuesday.

The bans were a part of a larger cannabis ordinance approved in a 4:1 vote, with Supervisor Peter Adam of the Fourth District being the only opposing vote. 

Ahead of the meeting, a letter concerning the impact policies would have on Isla Vista was sent in recommendation of a smaller minimum 600-foot buffer zone between “sensitive receptor” sites and commercial dispensaries.

Too large of a minimum buffer zone could possibly “preclude 40% of existing commercial space in Isla Vista that would otherwise be eligible for future retail cannabis operations,” according to the letter. 

Isla Vista is around 1.9 square miles, and a lot of the area is dedicated to student housing. The majority of businesses in Isla Vista are located downtown, right outside of Pardall Tunnel.

Isla Vista is also bordered by two schools on both of its sides. Closer to downtown Isla Vista is UCSB. Isla Vista Elementary School is on the other side, closer to the more remote Santa Catalina dorms.

Though no group has officially sponsored the letter, many Isla Vista community and student leaders signed it, including Ethan Bertrand (president of the Isla Vista Community Services District), Pegeen Soutar (Director of the Isla Vista Recreation & Parks District), Batsheva Stoll (the UCSB Associated Students External Vice President for Local Affairs), and many A.S. Senators.

Of the larger approved buffer-zone, Spencer Brandt, one of the letter signers and the Secretary of the Isla Vista Community Services District, said that he believes the Board of Supervisors took a “balanced approach” in making the decision.

“I think that the 750-foot buffer between school and retail cannabis is a good compromise,” Brandt said about the approved buffer-zone.

The Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors also decided to limit the number of retail pot shops to eight in the county, with no more than two in one district. There are five districts in Santa Barbara, with Isla Vista being in the Third District along with the Santa Ynez Valley, unincorporated parts of Lompoc, and the City of Guadalupe.

Brandt also went to the meeting along with fellow IVCSD director Jay Freeman to advocate for the dispensary being in Isla Vista.

Following the legalization of marijuana, Santa Barbara and other counties across the state continue to create and update policies concerning the advent of dispensaries and growers. Such policies have been a compromise between those who view marijuana generally positively and others who fear the impact marijuana will have on the community.

The delay in approving regulations has not only been stressful for businesses wanting to move in but also for community members who are unhappy with how marijuana is currently used.

“Remember that any delay means a delay in the odor control and the lighting requirements that would be in the ordinance,” said First District Supervisor Das Williams, according to Noozhawk. “That is a big deal.”

In Carpinteria, under his jurisdiction, residents have complained about strong odors from growers in the area.

Marijuana taxation is on the agenda for the next Board of Supervisors meeting that will be held on Feb. 13 in Santa Maria.

With regulations on marijuana sales still being decided, it remains unclear if Isla Vista will get its own dispensary soon.