In light of recent violent events in Isla Vista, including the Deltopia riots and the May 23 mass killings, local residents and community officials convened on Monday at Santa Barbara Hillel for a meeting titled “Our Isla Vista: IV Self-Governance Town Hall.”
Sponsored by Associated Students, the meeting comprised of about 100 locals and touched upon the history of self-governance in Isla Vista while encouraging debate about potential modes of self-governing among attending community members. Spanning two hours, suggestions regarding creating a neighborhood association or a community services district centered Monday’s discussion.
Since the 1960s, Isla Vista has had difficulty becoming a self-governing entity, failing to pass cityhood attempts three different times in 1973, 1975 and 1984.
According to Third District County Supervisor Doreen Farr, the main issue Isla Vista has with becoming a self-governing entity is finding sustainable funding.
“We need as much help as we can get from all segments of the community,” Farr said. “It’s really important. I think that we are making strides on infrastructure, but the key baseline issue is sustainable funding.”
Additionally, Isla Vista’s small geographic size and large population density is a challenge towards procuring sustainable funding, Farr said.
“Traditionally, money comes from property tax, sales tax, [and] bed tax,” Farr said. “Isla Vista doesn’t really have any hotels, so it has no bed tax. It has some sales tax, but not a lot. It’s mainly property tax, but they need to balance that off with the amount of services they need, which is a lot.”
Isla Vista is one of Santa Barbara County’s four pockets of poverty, according to Farr. Because many students and low-income families already struggle to makes ends meet, Farr said it would be unfair to charge them more money.
Town hall attendee and Isla Vista resident Jeffrey Walsh said that members of all ends of the Isla Vista community need to speak with each other to develop a plan for the future.
“There’s lots of different, diverse members of the population,” Walsh said. “We felt that it was really important that those groups or stakeholders caucused among themselves because they’re not monolithic groups that are all in agreement with each other.”
While meetings continue to be planned, former A.S. president Jonathan Abboud said choosing a self-governance option too soon could ultimately hurt the community more than help it.
“It’s not a smart idea to rush into any one option because it could end up being not what we actually need,” Abboud said, “or it could end up being a little useless, or not as effective as we need it to be.”
As far as a future community center goes, Farr said the former Redevelopment Agency properties on Embarcadero Del Mar could serve as a potential location.
“We have things now like the former RDA properties that we managed to hang on to that we can use as a place to provide services to start a beginning community center,” Farr said. “In the future, I’d like to see a big capital campaign where we ultimately would build a really big, new, beautiful community center, and knock these other old buildings down, and have something that would really work with the community.”
According to Farr, town hall meetings such as Monday’s, where “a broad section of the community [was] represented,” are vital for pushing forward the implementation of concrete plans for Isla Vista’s autonomy.
“I think that it’s terrible it’s taken these tragic events of this year and Deltopia, but there’s been so much renewed energy and focus now on Isla Vista that it is all positive,” Farr said. “I think the future is better and looking up, and I think it’s working at a positive direction.”
The next Isla Vista town hall meeting is scheduled for October 7, 2014.
Photo courtesy of Mathew Burciaga
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.