Self-Governance in Isla Vista: An Uncertain Future

Students, A.S. Call For Community Service District; Officials Remain Doubtful

When tear-gassed strangers came stumbling down Pasado Road, lost and confused after the Deltopia riots, local parks official and 30-year Isla Vista resident Pegeen Soutar did more than offer them washcloths and water. As a member of the Isla Vista Parks and Recreation District, she thought about the future of community voice in the governing of Isla Vista.

As it stands now, Isla Vista is an unincorporated district. According to fifth-year biological anthropology major Josh Plotke, I.V. is basically Santa Barbara County’s “unwanted stepchild.” Plotke said I.V. produces a decent amount of money for the County, but the money goes to other areas of the County rather than toward resources and improvements for the small student community.

Without proper public representation, Plotke said, small projects like installing streetlights and sidewalks will continue to be swapped for embellishments to downtown locations.

In the aftermath of Deltopia, Plotke has looked to one solution for increasing the autonomy of I.V. — making it a Community Services District, or CSD. If made into a CSD, I.V. would have its own independent form of governance.

As defined in a 2001 report of local government options for I.V., a CSD would absorb all independently-run services in the district under one governing body. Currently, the I.V. Parks and Recreation District, or IVPRD, is the only such service in the community, and it includes an attached administration and elected board. By definition, a CSD would absorb the IVPRD’s authoritative powers, as well as control over street lighting and landscaping from the County. Services such as water supply, wastewater treatment, law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services would be left untouched.

According to Plotke, a CSD would give I.V. the representation it lacks — a problem that was brought to the forefront by regular cases of sexual harassment and the violent Deltopia riots last month. In light of these issues and the lack of physical infrastructure such as public walkways, Plotke said I.V. is in need of more for its community.

“There’s supposed to be sidewalks everywhere,” Plotke said. “And if this was actually a politically organized area, there’d be sidewalks a long time ago.”

However, Soutar said a CSD is not the answer to I.V.’s woes. In response to Deltopia in particular, Soutar said the event will only wind down once there is a local cultural shift and students stop inviting out-of-towners and become more conscious of their surrounding community. Basically, no one but the residents can fix this issue, she said.

“To create another whole layer of government — to add sidewalks or more lighting — does not seem like the right direction for me.”

Instead, she suggests creating advisory board to give the half-square mile of I.V. some sort of voice in the County. However, the controversy lies in how members of this board would be selected and in determining what larger governing body this board would be a part of, Soutar said.

For Soutar, the board would feature four key players: main governing bodies of I.V., law enforcement, other I.V. groups and additional stakeholders. Sitting with the main governing bodies is a representative from Santa Barbara County, one from IVRPD and one from the University. Law enforcement includes the County Sheriff and representatives from the UC Police Department and I.V. Foot Patrol. Other I.V. groups at the table may include the housing co-ops, the I.V. Tenants Union and the I.V. Youth Project. Student and non-student residents, property owners and homeowners would be present as additional stakeholders.

According to Associated Students External Vice President for Local Affairs-elect Beatrice Contreras, her ideal table focuses on more communication between the University and the I.V. community, as well as between local law enforcement and A.S. Contreras said she seeks to establish a forum for students to communicate with law enforcement officials like the UCPD and IVFP.

“The year progressed and I began to think to myself, especially after the sexual assaults, ‘Wow, we need to mobilize. We need to do something,’” Contreras said.

The idea of a CSD has been gathering momentum in A.S., as EVPLA Alex Moore said he came across the idea last fall while researching alternatives to making I.V. an actual city. Now the idea is gaining more fans, as Contreras said making I.V. into a CSD is an idea that seems to resonate with students.

“One thing that really affects everything that goes on is representation, and we don’t have a lot of that,” Contreras said.

She said students in I.V. receive representation in two ways: through the IVRPD and A.S. local affairs members attending County board meetings. Nonstudents, however, do not necessarily have their voices heard.

“The EVPLA does a lot of the work for representing students, but oftentimes that means that nonstudent community members don’t have their voices represented,” Contreras said.

According to Contreras, County installment of surveillance cameras instead of using the money for streetlights or bystander intervention training stood as an example of when the voices of I.V. residents were lost.

“If we had funneled all those reactive measures into more proactive measures, I think that that could have really helped,” Contreras said.

In addition, Contreras said the University has had little to do with Deltopia in previous years. But now, the University must start to address the issue of Deltopia and get more involved in educating students on what can go wrong during such events and how to deal with those consequences, she said.

“The University has a lot of connections that could have really helped mediate the situation,” Contreras said, “Instead, it just blatantly ignored it, kind of pushed it under the rug.”

Meanwhile, Moore said the process to come up with a solution to Deltopia is highly challenging. Moore said the majority of people unanimously agree that the event cannot continue on without intervention, but “no one necessarily sees a path forward.”

“It’s been pretty hard to find some leadership as far as students go on that,” Moore said.

According to Plotke, he has been researching the possibility of a CSD since last summer, before coming to A.S. to present his ideas in the fall. However, when Plotke met with Moore, the two came to disagreements over their respective CSD plans and aspirations.

“It just doesn’t make any sense that he would try to shut me down when I was secretly his biggest asset,” Plotke said.

Since then, Plotke and Moore have been each carrying out their own plans for creating a CSD.

Moore said he hopes future EVPLAs will continue to work on building the momentum for a CSD so it could possibly be on the ballot in November during the general election period.

“It’s going to take more than just one person to figure out how to fix and bring some self-governance to Isla Vista,” Moore said. “It’s not going to be a solo crusade.”

Despite the efforts of both Plotke and Moore, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said he is reluctant to believe a CSD will solve the problem of an out-of-control Deltopia and other community problems. His opinion is similar to Soutar’s since he said he does not believe a self-governing community is the actual key to solving Deltopia-like events.

“It’s a recurring event, but it started almost in a spontaneous manner,” Brown said. “As it has continued and has recurred year after year, I’m not quite sure it would make a whole lot of difference whether it was in a city or in the County or in a special district.”

In response, Plotke said he feels skeptical of the Sheriff’s allegiance to Isla Vista.

“I’m sure he’s way more worried about whatever’s happening in the rest of the County,” Plotke said. “The only time that worries him is when I.V. gets a riot or something.”

In fact, opposition to a CSD may be due to officials trying to prevent I.V. from having more control over County money, according to Plotke.

“There’s an interest for things not to go well. As long as things are a mess and there’s no governance, they’re just jacking the money,” Plotke said. “But as soon as there are actually people watching over, all of the sudden, they’re not going to be able to keep stealing from the pot.”

Rodney Gould, general manager of the IVPRD, said Plotke is missing two key numbers in his argument: the amount of the current property taxes that would stay in I.V. and what portion of this money would go to the County. Gould also said the financial feasibility of a CSD is questionable.

In addition, Gould said another one of his main concerns is that potential board members who lack a “long-term stake” in the community will impose measures on people who are “stuck here, left paying for the consequences.”

Regarding the implementation of an advisory board, Soutar said while one would be nice, individual residents can make a difference in the community at this very moment. For her, the issue is not the noise, the booze or even the party vibe — all she wants is the elimination of violence and crime.

“I dig this place — I like how creative people are; I like how fun people are … I don’t mind the loud noise; I don’t mind the beer pong everywhere — that doesn’t bug me,” Soutar said. “I just don’t want the violence; I don’t want the destruction. I don’t want to see women getting harassed and guys getting beat up.”

Isla Vista currently stands as an unincorporated district. Advocates of Isla Vista becoming a Community Service District claim that it would increase resident representation and allow for the funding of local projects.

Isla Vista currently stands as an unincorporated district. Advocates of Isla Vista becoming a Community Service District claim that it would increase resident representation and allow for the funding of local projects.


Photo by John Clow / Daily Nexus

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 5, 2014 edition of the Daily Nexus.

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  1. raoul duke says:

    IV needs martail law and armed security escorts. BYU by th sea! Lock it down.

  2. Robyn Raymer says:

    I hope that in view of the shootings last week, you all will renew your campaign to self-govern Isla Vista. (I’m an alum, and I lived in IV for 3 years in the 1970s–nothing but good memories.) I think it’s time for IV residents to keep better tabs on what goes on there. When IV was the site of violent student protests in the late 60s, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant, but one GOOD thing about that for those who got there a bit later was that there was still a lot of community activism happening and that seemed to give residents some control over uglier stuff such as violence among students–we inherited a feeling that it was our home and we had to make sure people didn’t harm each other. We alums will support you guys wholeheartedly if you push to self govern and take better care of each other. And I’m so sorry that you are hurting right now.

    Love and peace to all.

  3. michael boyd says:

    Until the students who are the majority of the permanent population of Isla Vista UCSB realize they have rights to self government over their own civic, educational, and living environments during this, the greatest of their formative learning periods where each will likely face their greatest challenges…but instead Isla Vista remains the forgotten orphan of County of Santa Barbara; a progeny of UCSB’s fornication with a bunch of land developers; abandon by IV’s orphaned sister Goleta, who won her emancipation at the ballot box. This is IV UCSB the lost opportunity for a truly unique Mecca for knowledge democracy and model for a civic society it could be. Now IV UCSB faces their greatest challenge ever to remain subject to the wishes of distant County overlords and the Regents of the University of California who see students not as the hope for our future as i do, but as a commodity to be bargained for where your student loan payments matter more than your eduction does…and Isla Vista remains the student ghetto it is today, like it was when I lived their in the 70s and 80s. You how ever have the tools to remake your own futures if you have the guts to do it. I’m 56 now and still believe in self government today more so then I did even back then. But I have learned no one’s going to hand you your rights…especially the government. The bit of wisdom I can share with you is when it comes to the government you must never be afraid because the First Amendment protects your free speech not their’s. That means you can always sue the government if LAFCO for example denies your vote on Cityhood after you get your 25% signatures… well you just sue them. Free speech includes the right to sue…that’s called petitioning the government for grievances a protect expression of free speech. I believe in doing this and here is an example from my non-profit group CARE where I sued the US Treasury Secretary….see http://www.calfree.com/Stimulus%20Complaint.pdf

  4. Josh Plotke says:

    I just wanted to correct something said in this article. In the third paragraph it says “Without proper public representation, Plotke said, small projects like installing streetlights and sidewalks will continue to be swapped for embellishments to downtown locations.” In the interview that I did, I was referring to when the RDA existed, that downtown Santa Barbara used money that was supposed to be used to fix “blight,” to put brick into the sidewalks on State Street, clearly not something intended by the law. It is because of abuses like this, that the Governor shut down RDA’s. There was a lot of RDA money though put into Isla Vista. The point I made in the interview was that there really is no representation for Isla Vista to make sure it gets what it deserves.
    Also, I’d like to correct what the article says, that I presented the idea to AS in the fall. I emailed the President of AS over the summer suggesting that he do this project. He got back to me right away saying that they are in fact already working on this project.
    As far as what the article says that Alex Moore and I have been each working on carrying out our own plans to create a CSD, this is either wrong or misleading. We both are working on the same plan, and as much as possible, have been collaborating with each other.
    Let me say further, that without Alex Moore, this CSD project would be nowhere. It started with him.
    As far as what Pegeen Soutar said, that a CSD will not help IV’s woes such as Deltopia and the like, and instead she suggested there needed to be a cultural change, I am not sure how soon she is expecting such a cultural shift to take place. It is my understanding that Isla Vista has had similar problems for at least the past 40 years. I’m not expecting a culture shift to take place any time soon. Instead my point with the CSD was that at least there would be a central entity in IV with power that would be able to speak up and say “we don’t want Deltopia or Halloween to look like it has in the past, and we will do whatever we can do to help make sure that doesn’t happen.” Further, a CSD can represent the voice of IV to the County. Neither of these things are currently possible, as there is no central voice, let alone one with power either.
    As far as the advisory board that she suggests, who exactly is going to fund such a thing? Further, I don’t see her organizing to bring about such a board about. A board like that existed in the IV’s past, but had to shut down once County/UCSB funding for it was pulled.
    I agree with Pegeen’s will to eliminate the violence and crime in IV (as do I), but utopian measures aren’t going to solve the problem; real concrete solutions will.
    As far as what Bill Brown said that he “he is reluctant to believe a CSD will solve the problem of an out-of-control Deltopia and other community problems,” let me first say that it would be helpful if Bill Brown actually got back to me on the project, instead of seeing it more important to follow up with journalist, than someone actually trying to improve Isla Vista. It’s funny that he is running again for Sheriff now, and that fits with him finding it more important to respond to a journalist, than to myself. Further, has anyone in Isla Vista ever seen Sheriff Brown here? Has he ever held a community forum here? Has anyone ever even seen him walking the streets here? Does he actually really care about IV?

    • Michael Boyd says:

      CSD will not work for two reasons 1)Because LAFCO approves CSDs being formed, just like it approves Cityhood proposals, and 2) CSD wouldn’t be able to include UCSB in its service territories.

      The heavy lifting needs to be done by the Associated Students’ in Cheadle Hall for Cityhood before anything regarding self government can happen. A.S. needs to convince the Chancellor that democratic home rule is a right, and not a privilege reserved for persons over the age of 25. Therein is the root cause of the self government dilemma for UCSB/IV; the University of California, one of the most influential entities in the State of California, opposes it…

      • Josh Plotke says:

        Michael Boyd:

        As far as LAFCO approving or not approving a CSD, their own documents reference a CSD as a real option (reference SB LAFCO report titled “Municipal Service Review and Sphere of Influence Update” for “Santa Barbara Goleta Valley Area” County Service Area 31 section). Further, I have talked with the current and past LAFCO executive officers, and they both said that a CSD is a real option.

    • OceanTerrace says:

      Bill Brown campaigned hard in IV when he was first elected. Jeremy Lindaman, who knew IV pretty well in his time at UCSB, brought him around. Brown was going to do a better job in IV, or so he said.
      Great to have Michael Boyd posting here. My experience is more from the 2002-era Goleta Incorporation. LAFCO simply hated IV… every board member, except Gail Marshall and the rather old Goleta Water District guy (Fox?). UCSB can’t reverse that. Property owners from IV are more effective at lobbying LAFCO than UCSB is.
      The only way IV will every get some sort of rational government is to design it and get UCSB, Das Williams, etc to do do an end run around LAFCO right to Sacramento. And a durable compromise between property owners, resident voters, and UCSB has to be negotiated. My own opinion is that each portion of that group has a veto, and actively uses it. So self-government in IV can never get going unless all 3 are behind it.

  5. Michael Boyd says:

    I as I sit here contemplating my 1983 Bank Burning Award I received from the now deceased Isla Vista Community Council (IVCC) for collecting 1,500 signatures on a Petition to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) seeking the incorporation of UCSB and Isla Vista into a City I wonder what IV/UCSB would be like if they were incorporated City after all these years today? This proposal included extending the tidelands out 3 miles to include Platform Holly to collect tideland oil royalties for the City. The annexation attempt won two of five members of the State Land Commission in support but ultimately politics, not financial feasibility; denied voters on the campus and IV any opportunity to exercise their rights to vote for self determination in forming the City. The University opposed the proposal and at this period of time Goleta wasn’t a City and the Supervisors wanted to include IV in any future City with Goleta. I ran against then Supervisor Bill Wallace on this very issue forcing him in to a run-off election by siphoning off enough of the IV block vote to make the difference. Additionally since 95% of IV is owned absentee land owners they where united in opposition with the small group of home owners on the edge of town because of their fear of IV having rent control.
    A CSD wouldn’t work for IV because the City services any City would provide would be more like Berkeley’s than Goleta’s. CSD’s can not do rent control but City’s can and they can not provide important code compliance and zoning enforcement necessary for improved health, safety, and quality of life services that are severally lacking currently. Most importantly a City could operate its own Foot Patrol which is important to prioritizing enforcement; putting public health and safety and violent crimes first. Police services aren’t provided by a Community Service District (CSD). If IV controlled it own police for some reason I don’t think surveillance cameras would have been installed with a community debate about it first. Do you?

    Michael Boyd – Former Chairman IVRPD, IVCC, Director former Isla Vista Sanitary District

    • Josh Plotke says:

      I am not sure what you mean by the Berkeley vs. Goleta comment, but either way, a CSD could effect planning decisions, if it was given the power of being an Area Planning Commission. It could also have police powers, but that isn’t a power that would be pursued, as there isn’t enough tax money in IV to pay for those services. Reference CA Government Code 61100 (http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml).
      Feel free to contact me by email as well at IslaVistaCSD@gmail.com

      • Michael Boyd says:

        Josh, I agree the current law allows LAFCo to authorize a new CSD to be authorized to perform virtually any service that any special district can perform in California (§61100). Over 30 services can be authorized by LAFCo, including service as an Area Planning Commission and a Municipal Advisory Council…but that’s under the auspices of the County. They already had a IVMAC that the County defunded when we went for Cityhood. So there you go…So what’s the point of CSD, i still don’t get it? “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass

        • Josh Plotke says:

          Michael Boyd:

          I don’t expect the County to fund a MAC, though they might decide to. Instead, I was thinking that funding wouldn’t be needed, as the CSD will already have the administration costs covered.

          • Michael Boyd says:

            Administrative costs come from some where and have to be paid through taxes. Do you propose to dissolve the IVRPD. The problem there is IVRPD is non-enterprise property tax based District while most CSDs are based on the enterprise type District like a water or sewer District has. So let’s you say you had a CSD with cops an their was a riot…does that mean we start selling the parks for police protection costs??

            • Josh Plotke says:

              IVRPD would be dissolved.
              You should read my recent op-ed in the Nexus titled “How do you Solve a Problem like Isla Vista” to understand my proposal.

    • Jonathan Abboud says:


      I truly appreciate you taking the time to give us this perspective of history regarding our cherished community of Isla Vista.

      I am on the same page, that the ultimate goal is city hood. However, we believe city hood may be more probably if we stepped from a CSD to a city rather than from our current unincorporated status to a city.

      We would love to be able to converse with you regarding this newly forming campaign (with the election mandate of the past AS election).

      Contact me (or the AS President Elect Ali Guthy) at president@as.ucsb.edu

      • Michael Boyd says:

        Jonathan, You don’t need any CSD to go for Cityhood. The IVRPD could submit the proposal too, and it already exists. But self government must come from below, not above. That’s why the Petition drive, and you need 25% of the registered voters in the last Gubernatorial election to qualify for the election that way. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get IVRPD’s full support and using them as the vehicle to conduct the financial feasibility study for the proposed City of IV/UCSB, along with the University guidance and funding. I still have a bound copy of the 1985 Cityhood proposal which is essentially the same as currently proposed…IV & UCSB together.

        My suggested strategy for self government is as follows.

        Associated Students passes a Resolution supporting the formation of the City before this Summer.

        A.S. gets IVRPD support and meets with UCSB to get their buy in too.

        Financial feasibility study and environmental review conducted over the Summer. If IVRPD determines feasibility this summer then petition drive begins with the new fall term at UCSB starting at UCSB’s dorms and then moving in to IV after that.

        Petitions submitted before Christmas and LAFCO review in March April time frame in 2015. Cityhood vote November 2015 for UCSB/IV.

        • Josh Plotke says:

          Michael Boyd:

          The CSD law (CA Gov’t Code 61001) clearly states that CSD’s can be “a transitional form of governance as the community approaches cityhood.”
          Only LAFCO could approve cityhood, and they wont do it because the tax base isn’t large enough (reference the LAFCO commissioned report titled “Local Government Options for Isla Vista/UCSB”)

          • Michael Boyd says:

            @Josh, You hit the nail right on the head…there isn’t any tax base for a City of IV/UCSB without UCSB being included. Why do you think there is a tax base for a CSD then? I don’t get that. The majority of the tax comes from UCSB the sales tax from the Student Center alone is huge…and what about the transitory tax for all those folks staying at UCSB less than 30 days? And why are you talking about CSD as transition when IVRPD could forward a proposal to LAFCO any time they can count to three? No UCSB… no IV …they are joined together [from birth] whether they like it or not. Isn’t it time for as all to grow up and act and be treated as adults?? That’s the real issue here…

            • Josh Plotke says:

              Michael Boyd:

              Please read the LAFCO report titled “Local Government Options for Isla Vista/UCSB” that I already referenced in a past post. The administrative and other costs of a city are much greater than a CSD, which is why a city isn’t fiscally feasible, while a CSD is.
              UCSB will never agree to be in such a city, so I’m not gonna bother.
              After speaking with the Executive Director at LAFCO, he is going to want to see a 25% petition rather than just an IVRPD resolution.

    • Josh Plotke says:

      I am not sure what you mean by “A CSD wouldn’t work for IV because the City services any City would provide would be more like Berkeley’s than Goleta’s.”
      A CSD would be able to have a planning effect if it was also granted the power to be an Area Planning Commission. Also, police powers are allowed in a CSD, if approved by LAFCO, the issue is that there isn’t enough tax money in IV to pay for the cost of IV police services. Reference CA government code 61100 for the information I provided.

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