Whether or not Isla Vista will actually become an island may be decided at tonight’s Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO) meeting.
LAFCO will hold a public forum this evening at 6 at the County Administration Building downtown to discuss possible boundaries for the Goleta Now! incorporation proposal. The possibilities of including Isla Vista and UCSB in the proposed boundaries, as well as fiscal considerations in sustaining the new city are both on the agenda.
LAFCO Chair and 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall said she expects public comment to focus on the potential inclusion of I.V.
“The county administration officer from the board of supervisors made the recommendation to include I.V. in the cityhood proposal, and this has caused much debate in the community,” she said.
This is not the first time Goleta has attempted to become a city. Several cityhood petitions were put on the November election in the 1970s and ’80s, but failed because of boundary disputes. Last December, Goleta Now! submitted a petition to LAFCO with the 4,000 signatures required to put the issue back on the ballot.
Since then, LAFCO has been studying potential boundaries and fiscal analyses of the proposed city. Mark Chaconas, executive staff assistant to Marshall, said the analysis of the proposed city has taken two tracks: comprehensive fiscal issues and the boundary question.
“The county loses money with Goleta cityhood, and the impacts of this on surrounding areas has to be considered,” he said. “The county has to maintain revenue neutrality, and to study this, LAFCO has to decide on the boundaries. Inclusion of Isla Vista boils down to money and social issues. I think the incorporation of Goleta should create the largest city possible, and that means including I.V.”
The proposal submitted to LAFCO by Goleta Now! in 1999 did not include I.V. in the boundaries. Goleta Now! representative Johnnie Wallis said the committee feels it would be better if the proposal maintains this exclusion until after the city of Goleta has been approved by voters.
“Our original proposal did not include UCSB, Isla Vista or the airport,” said Wallis. “LAFCO added parts of the eastern end of Goleta, and is free to change the boundaries as it sees fit. What we want is something that will be successful at the ballot. Current polls indicate that Goletans don’t want I.V. included right now. I think it would be best if solutions regarding Isla Vista are worked out in the future.”
If I.V. and the university are not included in the final boundary proposal, they can be annexed at a later time or continue to be overseen by the county. Other options, such as turning I.V. into its own city or having self-governance through community organizations like the I.V. Recreation and Parks District, are issues that also need to be discussed, according to Marshall.
“Control of land use comes only with incorporation into a city, and this control is what both Goleta and Isla Vista want,” she said. “I don’t know if I.V. can become a city because of revenue considerations.”
IVRPD Director and UCSB student Ariana Katovich said not including I.V. in Goleta boundaries would make it an island, something not allowed by LAFCO regulations.
“I think I.V. should be its own city, but the question is whether we have the tax base to do that,” Katovich said. “Not including I.V. would make it an island left out in the cold as far as resources go. So, LAFCO will either do the right thing and include I.V., or it won’t. But Goleta is not going to be able to get everything they want.”
Longtime I.V. resident and UCSB psychology Professor Hal Kopeikin said while the exclusion of I.V. would be an act of discrimination, UCSB does not need to be included in the new city.
“Isla Vista is a viable part of Goleta cityhood,” he said. “We do all of our shopping in Goleta, and therefore are a strong part of the tax base the new city will rely on. But I don’t think the university needs to be included in the city. UCSB is a state agency unto itself. Including the university into Goleta cityhood is unnecessary and will force them to reject us.”
The Goleta community’s negative feelings toward I.V. are based on social and political differences, I.V. resident Chris Gallery said.
“The feeling in Goleta is that I.V. is some sort of political machine that has a heavy influence in local elections. People are afraid that by including I.V. in the new city, their voice will be drowned out by the students,” Gallery said. “I.V. has traditionally been the death knell to Goleta cityhood; they’re excluding I.V. based on demographics, which makes us a stepchild to the county.”
Goletans are more interested in city concerns rather than the well-being of the entire community, according to Diane Conn, a longtime I.V. resident and IVRPD board member. Conn said the Goleta community does not want I.V. to be included in city boundaries because they think the students will vote in favor of any new taxes proposed on ballots.
“Residents of Goleta seem to believe that students will vote for any new tax that comes along, and they’re afraid of that. But I don’t think that students will vote for any tax that is unreasonable,” Conn said. “Goletans think of what’s best for Goleta over what’s best for the whole valley. The problem is that current Goleta incorporation boundaries does not include I.V. and leaves us without self-governance.”
Butch Arnoldi, the I.V. Foot Patrol lieutenant and a Goleta resident, said he supports incorporation of I.V., and encouraged Goleta residents afraid of the I.V. vote to take a more proactive voice in the community instead of blaming I.V. for swinging the vote.
“My opinion, as a resident of Goleta, is I’d like to see Goleta Valley include I.V. and UCSB. People are so afraid of the I.V. student vote – well, if you’re concerned, then get out there and vote,” he said. “As a political science major, I’d like to say that the way [Goleta Now!] is gerrymandering the county for the current proposal is illegal and any court would rule it as illegal.”
Conn said the inclusion of I.V. is necessary to make the Goleta proposal fiscally feasible, and would provide the Goleta community with valuable resources.
“Goleta Now! is concerned with planning, not services. Inclusion of Isla Vista in Goleta city boundaries would mean more money for things like affordable housing and open space. I want Isla Vista included because it would balance the community and provide more of a green vote. But if we were included, could Goleta and the IVRPD work together? I don’t know, but I think I.V. is willing to cooperate,” she said. “Students have consistently contributed to the future of the community, and they should be congratulated. I wish Goletans would do the same. If they don’t want to include us, fine, but stop trashing us. Goletans believe self-serving myths, but the only thing they have to fear is their own apathy.”
According to Chaconas, LAFCO is expected to make a decision on boundaries either tonight or at its next meeting in January. Marshall said she encourages students and residents who feel I.V. should be included in the cityhood proposal to come to the LAFCO meeting this evening.
“If you feel I.V. should be included, LAFCO needs to hear about it from you, not just from me,” Marshall said. “But in the end, LAFCO has the final decision.”