The Isla Vista Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Oversight Committee will decide whether to keep or sell three Isla Vista properties — including the I.V. Neighborhood Clinic, an abandoned church property and a solar-powered parking lot near Embarcadero Del Mar — at a meeting at the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic tomorrow at 9 a.m.
The Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last week to retain the properties for “government use,” and after tomorrow’s decision by the I.V. RDA Oversight Committee, the State Department of Finance will decide the fate of all three properties, taking the results of both meetings into equal consideration.
Originally owned by Santa Barbara’s RDA, the three properties came into county possession after all RDAs in the state were dissolved in February 2012. The Oversight Committee was established to supervise the liquidation of former RDA assets.
In the last few months, several local groups have advocated keeping I.V. Clinic for the roughly 17,000 unduplicated low-income patients it serves each year. Local advocates are also pushing to keep the church as a venue for public forum, as there has long been talk of its potential as a local community center.
In a letter addressing members of both the RDA Oversight Committee and the SB Board of Supervisors, Rodney Gould, general manager at IV Recreation and Park District, stated the IVRPD Board of Director’s support for holding onto both the abandoned church and I.V. Neighborhood Clinic.
The letter stated the buildings hold “a long history of housing governmental offices and community service providers,” such as the offices of the Third District Supervisor, I.V. Tenants Union, I.V. RDA and Santa Barbara County Building and Safety offices, amongst other local services and organizations.
While Gould said it is “hard to say” what the State Department of Finance’s decision will be, he said the clinic would most likely be kept since it has been used historically and continues to be an active building. However, he said it would be more likely for the abandoned church to be sold.
“It’s hard to say what the State will do, but if I had to venture a guess, I think they will support the County retaining the clinic but not the church. That is not to say there is no hope of retaining the church, as there was an approved long range development plan that included establishing a community center,” Gould said in an email. “I hope I’m wrong, but the original plan was not at the same location so I’m not convinced the State will see it that way.”
Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs, Alex Moore, said transforming the church into a community center would open up many possibilities for the surrounding community, especially considering the small size of I.V. and its lack of resources.
“We’re way under-resourced. We’re a community in poverty,” Moore said. “We don’t have community space to provide services in [and] we want to build that infrastructure.”
Carmen Lodise, former member of the Isla Vista Park Board and author of Isla Vista: A Citizen’s History, said the main challenge of tomorrow’s meeting will be keeping the church as a community-owned building.
“We’re pretty confident that the oversight board and the State Department will approve keeping the clinic building,” Lodise said. “The vacant church building is a little more problematic, and we’re going to have to work hard on that.”
Isla Vista had a community center several decades ago on property owned by the former Isla Vista Medical Clinic, but it was eliminated after the property was sold to the RDA. According to Lodise, the clinic’s extensive history of government use could help IV community members secure it for the future. But the church does not have this type of precedential background, Lodise said, even though it remains important as a potentially functional and symbolic place for gathering.
Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr and Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf plan to go to Sacramento to lobby, if needed, to hold onto the local buildings, Lodise said.
Moore said many of those who are fighting to sell the three buildings hold deep roots in the Isla Vista community.
“Essentially a lot of local activists — folks that have been involved in the community for years — have reached out and helped us,” Moore said. “We have a little bit of a journey left to go, but hopefully in the next few years, we will have a community center.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of the Wednesday, October 23, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.