The Board of Directors of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District is currently a major player in a town drama that is certain to make this upcoming year one of the most significant years in Isla Vista’s long and colorful history.
The IVRPD was created in 1972 on Isla Vista’s national holiday — Halloween. At the time, there was only one park in I.V.; today there are 25. Thwarted by the University and the County in several attempts to establish the City of Isla Vista, the Park Board remains the only group of government officials elected solely by I.V. residents.
That’s why the Park Board is at the center of the developing a campaign to create a community center in two buildings in the center of town — the one that currently houses the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic and the abandoned church across the street from The Bagel Café (which, ironically, is the original Bank of America branch in I.V. and would make a great Town Hall).
Isla Vista needs a community center; a recent Harvard study says it makes a town safer and despite housing more than 20,000 residents in a one-half-square mile, I.V. remains the only town in the county without one.
There was a community center in the mid 1970s, but the Isla Vista Medical Clinic owned the property. As a result of the healthcare crisis in America, the I.V. clinic merged with two Santa Barbara-based clinics to form Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Inc. After a few years, the building was sold to keep SBNC afloat and Isla Vista’s community center was lost. At the time, this didn’t seem so disastrous because the County Redevelopment Agency planned to build a community center in I.V. However, because of the State’s fiscal crisis, all RDAs were dissolved before construction started out on Estero Road.
Before its dissolution, the RDA purchased the clinic and church buildings intending to bulldoze them and build an immense underground parking lot. Needing 2/3rds-support of Park District voters, Measure D, which would have granted IVRPD the right to sell, lease or trade town parks, was instead defeated 3-1 in 2008. The County is left with the option of keeping the buildings “for government use” or selling them, perhaps to private developers.
To their credit, the County board of supervisors supports keeping the two buildings but over the next year, the Park Board will be deciding just how much the District will be involved in the future of these properties.
The Board has already stated the buildings should be the town’s much needed community center. But how is its staffing and maintenance to be paid for? And what if the State Finance Department insists the buildings should be sold? How will the Park Board prevent them from being demolished to make way for another high-rise apartment complex (with little or no parking)?
Well, the reason I’m writing to the Daily Nexus is because there is a one-year term open on the Park Board, to which any I.V. resident registered to vote is eligible to be appointed. The newest member of the Park Board would have the opportunity to step into this historic brew of events and possibly have a sizable effect on Isla Vista’s future. This open position will be filled by vote of the other four board members at their public meeting, Nov. 14. The term expires at the next regular election, in November 2014.
As it happens, the next Park Board meeting is showing The Isla Vista Slide Show, a sweeping history of the town emphasizing the 1970 civil disturbances and the community-building movement that rose phoenix-like out of those ashes. This double-barreled presentation inspired several generations of UCSB students to get involved in their community. It may literally change your life.
If you’re tempted by the chance to gain some hands-on experience seeing how a community runs, check out more information about the Park District and the application form available at www.ivparks.org. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m., Nov. 8 at the IVRPD office, 961 Embarcadero del Mar.
The meeting starts at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 24 in the IVRPD offices.
Carmen Lodise was on the Isla Vista Park Board 1976-80 and participated in buying the town’s first million-dollar-bundle of parklands. He is the author of Isla Vista: A Citizen’s History (2008).