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Isla Vista Properties Released to SB County

The Successor Agency to the former County of Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency (RDA) in Isla Vista held a meeting yesterday morning to discuss the retaining of three Isla Vista properties — a medical clinic, church and parking lot — by the Santa Barbara County, amongst other issues.

In February, the state Department of Finance approved of the Successor Agency’s Long-Range Property Management Plan, which put the three properties at issue under the control of the County as opposed to being sold for development. The meeting yesterday saw to a unanimous vote that made official the transfer of these three property titles as well as the transfer of the old RDA unspent bond proceeds of $235,983 to the County. The contract between the County and private attorney David Allen, who provides independent legal services for the Oversight Board, was also renewed.

Alex Tuttle, a Santa Barbara County Planner and member of the Oversight Board, said the vote taken during the meeting was mainly procedural and that none of the operation of the properties would change.

“[The vote] just means that they will stay in county ownership at this point,” Tuttle said. “There are no particular plans for any of those three properties other than continuing with their current use. So, it just means that they wouldn’t be sold off to private developers or anything of that nature.”

However, previous reports concerning the Long-Range Property Management Plan stated that the County would keep the medical clinic at 970 Embarcadero del Mar as is and convert the church property at 976 Embarcadero del Mar into a community center.

Tuttle said the decision from the Oversight Board to retain these properties occurred months ago and received “overwhelming support” from the community, particularly involving the clinic building.

“It seemed like the right decision to make,” Tuttle said.

Errin Briggs, the Successor Agency Program Manager and Oversight Board Secretary, said the properties were initially purchased by the now dissolved Redevelopment Agency. Their fate, however, was not officially determined until now, according to Briggs.

“When the Redevelopment Agency was dissolved by the governor in 2011, the properties transferred to what was called the Successor Agency, and the Successor Agency was really meant to unwind the old Redevelopment Agency,” Briggs said. “For the last three years, those properties had been held by the Successor Agency until their ultimate state had been determined.”

Briggs also said the Long-Range Property Management Plan made sure that the properties would stay with the County. However, the process is still not yet complete, Briggs said.

“In order to kind of finalize that plan, the Oversight Board, which happened today, and eventually the County, which will happen on June 3, will have to take a formal action to transfer those properties to the County,” Briggs said.

Regarding the transfer of funds, Briggs said the Redevelopment Agency had an annual budget of approximately $6 million that came from property tax revenue in the Isla Vista area, in addition to $17 million gained from the sale of bonds in 2008. These funds were used primarily for infrastructure improvements, according to Briggs.

“We used the money to construct the improvements on Pardall [and] the improvements on Embarcadero,” Briggs said. “We built a storm drain system around the downtown area, so that $17 million funded a bunch of public improvements.”

According to Briggs, of the aforementioned $17 million, $235,000 makes up the leftover funds. Briggs said the funds will be used in a way that is consistent with how they were used by the Redevelopment Agency in the past, which included the construction of public improvement projects.

On the topic of Allen’s contract renewal that was also focused on during the meeting, Briggs said the County and Oversight Board have their own private attorneys.

“The Oversight Board’s interests in this process are slightly different,” Briggs said. “The Oversight Board hires their own independent counsel … and they simply renewed [Allen’s] annual contract.”

There was no talk of the Isla Vista Master Plan at Thursday’s meeting.

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