Associated Students is looking to invest over $300,000 of student money in Isla Vista expansion with a community center and a restaurant.
Of 10 people randomly interviewed on campus, nine knew nothing about the projects. One person had heard of the plans, but knew no additional information.
The respective projects both have running starts, but do they have what it takes to get off the ground?
The Associated Students’ Sustainable Restaurant
Associated Students plans to invest a quarter of a million dollars of student money to establish an organic, local food operation at 6521 Pardall Rd.
The restaurant — which would take over the space of the now-defunct On The Side — would produce approximately 35 to 50 student jobs and, while it would create revenue, would not be run on a strictly profit-generating platform. Legislative Council representatives Fabian Gallardo and Stanley Tzankov, an A.S. presidential candidate, started pushing the enterprise last quarter.
While delegates indicated that the $250,000 is being loaned out for the plan from a reserve account under the control of Business Services, as of press time, student representatives have given the Daily Nexus conflicting reports about the money’s source.
The four students of the Business Services committee — including Gallardo, the committee chair — voted in favor of the loan, Tzankov said.
“The reserve account was created in 2006 during the students’ initiative as a mandate for an environmental center,” Gallardo said. “A large focus of the restaurant will be towards environmental education, hence the strong involvement of the Student Food Collective.”
However, A.S. President Paul Monge-Rodriguez, said the Business Services loan is coming from the A.S. Bike Reserve — funds that were allocated a number of years ago for the A.S. Bike Shop.
Part of the $250,000 will be allocated to an outside individual recommended by the A.S. attorney to create a business plan with the rest going toward “holding down” a lease, said Rodriguez.
A.S. Internal Vice President Jake Elwood said there was a discussion about loaning against other A.S. accounts.
“We currently have an account devoted towards the construction of a permanent bike shop, since our current one is in a trailer,” Elwood said. “It was proposed that we could borrow against that money once it came time to actually pay [for the restaurant]. But that was a possible suggestion, and it hasn’t been acted on. So once we know exactly how much money it will cost to get into this, we’ll be able to have a few options about where to pull the funding from if we decide to go for it.”
Following the Business Services’ decision, the Associated Students Legislative Council approved the loan as a resolution, said Tzankov. However, during an in-person interview Tzankov said that the Legislative Council members “don’t always go through the minutes.”
Because the restaurant has the potential to generate revenue, A.S. External Vice President for Local Affairs Cori Lantz said the proponents moved forward without configuring a final budget.
“I have mentioned it was hard for groups to fund money [for the annex project], and the groups are getting something out of it,” Lantz said. “I’m not sure where the money [for the restaurant] is going to come from. I’m not sure how they’re going to pull it off.”
However, Rodriguez said the restaurant is not necessarily guaranteed to generate a surplus.
“It has been calculated that the first year we will be breaking even but every year after that would be going to paying back the loan,” Rodriguez said. “This business isn’t designed to profit necessarily, but it’s designed to provide a service for students.”
Tzankov confirmed that a budget is still in the works.
“The restaurant has a lot of potential to generate a stable source of revenue,” Tzankov said. “The projections in our most current business plan are highly dependent on what menu we decide to craft in the following months and therefore, no accurate estimate can be provided at this time; however, that information will be public as soon as it is finalized.”
Proponents of the café are currently looking into other sources of funds.
“We have applied to several grants, including an $80,000 grant from The Green Initiative Fund that will go towards the production of the cart and improvements on the building and are pursuing more options from foundations and nonprofits,” Tzankov said.
According to the café supporters, excess funds from the restaurant may be recycled back to A.S. — but plans are still up in the air.
“This coming year, [the A.S.] budget is looking a lot tighter than it has been in the past,” Elwood said. “There have been a few reasons for that, but the base reason is that the university is not covering our benefits anymore, which increased our yearly costs about $400,000. It’s a big jump that we’ve never had to deal with. I’d imagine that [money from the restaurant] could go to back to the general fund that we distribute evenly throughout the association, but I don’t think it’s really been discussed.”
For the past few years, the restaurants at 6521 Pardall Rd. have not done well. On The Side was open for about six months before turning over to Dirty’s Barbeque and Brew Shack, which Tzankov estimated was open a mere two months.
However, Gallardo said the previous establishments’ losses can be attributed mostly to poor management.
“From information provided to us about the last couple businesses we can tell that they were somewhat successful,” Gallardo said. “They weren’t necessarily losing money; they just weren’t making a lot. A lot of these businesses that showed up weren’t locally managed, they were usually setup by investors from L.A. or SF.”
Gallardo also said A.S. plans to physically change the building to attract customers.
“We would like to open up the space more, allow more natural lighting, larger lounge areas and expansion of the outdoor patio with added photovoltaic solar panels,” Gallardo said. “We hope to change the current image of a ‘haunted building’ — read that in the Nexus a few days ago — to a much more livelier hangout spot for students.”
Proponents remain optimistic about the restaurant’s potential. According to Gallardo, the restaurant will provide healthier food options than the average Isla Vista restaurant.
“We will put into place as many sustainable practices for our restaurant at its opening as possible, and continually upgrade our facilities to fit the mission of an environmentally conscious business,” Gallardo said in an e-mail. “We hope to create precedent for future businesses in Isla Vista in both their quality of food and how they do business.”
Gallardo said the sustainable café will act as an educational resource and local dig for the community.
“It will provide students with a space to come in and hangout, relax, read a book — kind of something along the lines of what the Hub is supposed to be, but with the intimacy it lacks,” Gallardo said.
Because of the restaurant’s structure, it would function differently than other I.V. establishments, Elwood said.
“First of all, the model that it’s being built on is so that eventually, if it were to be successful, it would exist to support itself,” Elwood said. “It wouldn’t be interested in making a profit, per se. Because of that, the food and services that came from the business would be much more fairly priced than other places in I.V.”
Rodriguez also said the space could be used for community events such as lectures, concerts or open mic nights.
All legal documents for the lease have been submitted to the office of Chancellor Henry T. Yang and are waiting approval of the Chancellor and possibly the Regents, said Gallardo.
“Unfortunately we have to clear a lot more hurdles than the average person trying to open up their own business,” Gallardo said.
Despite controversy surrounding this endeavor, Gallardo said, he “wouldn’t want to tell any student to do anything [he] knew for a fact they didn’t want.”
“At this point, it has been students telling us through surveys done by both Associated Students and the Student Food Collective that this is what they want,” Gallardo said. “They’re tired of hamburgers and burritos. If I encountered a student who was not happy with our decision to pursue a sustainable café and somehow had to convince him/her otherwise, I’d start by showing them the statistical information on food options in IV and the dissatisfaction students are having.”
The Associated Students’ Community Annex
The A.S. EVPLA’s office has fought alongside partner groups to establish an annex in Isla Vista, but now their plans are hanging in the balance.
EVPLA Cori Lantz said she hopes that the community center will be established in the 4,270 square foot area above the I.V. Medical Clinic at 570 Embarcadero del Mar. The annex would house 15 boards, commissions and committees — nine of which currently have no office space at all.
“In order to get this entire thing up and running” Lantz said the building will cost $82,060 per year. Approximately $51,250 is allocated for rent, with the remainder funding utilities, supplies and staff and student salaries.
“It sounds like a huge number,” Lantz said. “But it’s actually very reasonable.”
C.A.B. allocated $24,000 for the space and the IVCRC has promised that they will contribute $2,000 every month to the annex rent upon establishment.
However, the project still needs $34,560. Lantz asked the A.S. Financial Board for money, but was turned down.
“For reasons I’m not sure of, they decided it was too much money,” Lantz said. “Which is frustrating because there are one-day events that cost just as much [as funding the building for an entire year].”
Lantz is now asking groups with surplus funds for this year to contribute to the community center fund.
According to Lantz, many of the 15 groups that hope to move into the annex may not be able to continue their work if this space is not provided.
“It is nearly impossible for groups to expand and grow without an office,” Lantz said. “This is not a luxury at this point, this is a necessity.”
The annex would also house a number of other community amenities including a computer lab, community garden, space for off-campus representatives to hold office hours, a recreation room and a kitchen where C.A.B. could cook breakfasts for the homeless.
According to IVCRC Chair Megan Shumate, her group is one of the project’s biggest supporters.
“I have been involved in making sure this project is made a priority because there are several committees in Associated Students that do not have a space, and it makes it extremely difficult to help the committee grow and achieve all of its goals to their full potential,” Shumate said in an e-mail. “IVCRC has been one of the biggest supporters of the I.V. Annex because it not only gives us a solid place to meet and have an office, but it also gives us a chance to reach out to our community members, especially those which aren’t students.”
However, money is not the only problem the annex supporters face.
“There’s a lot of work to do before we can make it a reality,” Elwood said. “I think that the idea of it is fantastic, but there have been a lot of hurdles getting there. Right now, it’s hard for me to say whether it will happen.”
Chancellor Yang recently mandated that A.S. needs to get approval from the UC Regents before signing any new lease in Isla Vista. Furthermore, Governor Brown’s current budget proposal calls for the dissolution of all Redevelopment Agencies in California. If this happens, the local Redevelopment Agency — which is responsible for the Isla Vista Master Plan and manages the annex property — may no longer exist.
Currently, there are about 10 groups that allocate money from property taxes. Without the Redevelopment Agency, there would only be nine groups that, according to Lantz, are less savvy on fighting for Isla Vista improvements.
“We would still be paying into property taxes, but getting nothing out of it,” Lantz said. “Any type of fiscal improvement [in Isla Vista] comes from the RDA.”
Originally, A.S. planned to move into the building in the beginning of March. Now, Lantz says, the project cannot progress until sometime in early June after the next UC Regents meeting.
Furthermore, the tentative plans for the Anisq’ Oyo’ Master Plan redevelopment include expanding the park by tearing down a number of buildings including Rosarito, Naan Stop, the St. Athanasius Orthodox Church — and the space that Lantz hopes will be used for the annex.
“I have had some reservations as we’ve moved forward,” EVPLA County Liaison and A.S. EVPLA candidate Tim Benson said in an e-mail. “I question the timing of the investment since the building is scheduled to be torn down within the next two years, and we face a likely chance of being kicked out of the building as soon as November.”
Another question is whether the annex will be fully utilized by the students. According to Benson, A.S. does need to become more visible to the student population, but he is unsure of whether the annex would be the best option.
“The genesis of putting an A.S. space in Isla Vista was the idea that a majority of UCSB students live in I.V. and a majority of their time is spent in I.V., so an annex in I.V. would be a great stride in making a more accessible and more visible association,” Benson said. “However, we could run into the same overarching issue of student apathy. We shouldn’t fund a large project if students won’t utilize it. I question how visible the building will be as it is tucked behind a row of businesses.”
Despite the setbacks, Lantz said she and others would continue supporting the project.
“We are still moving forward,” Lantz said. “We are looking into alternative spaces, but none would be as good. We’re going to continue fighting for that space.”