Approximately 30 students, homeowners, administrative officials and members of local government gathered at the Isla Vista Clinic yesterday evening to discuss the future of I.V. and the options available for I.V. self-governance.
Government options discussed included incorporating I.V. as a city or forming a community services district (CSD), as well as the implementation of a Utility User’s Tax (UUT). The meeting was hosted by Santa Barbara Assemblymember Das Williams, who on Monday introduced a bill to the California State Assembly seeking to establish I.V. as a CSD through the legislature, rather than through Santa Barbara’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the county entity responsible for overseeing changes to county and municipal governments.
According to Williams, an elected body governing I.V. as an incorporated city could potentially alienate long-term residents who are not students.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would be for Isla Vista becoming a full-fledged municipal government with the powers and resources of a full-fledged municipal government,” Williams said.
“However, I think the flaws of it is that the question of how long-term residents would effectively continue to have a political voice in a demographic where the population became a larger population of students over the years, that was never really effectively answered.”
Williams said he does not currently support cityhood for I.V. because it would not be possible to provide the variety of I.V. residents with appropriate political representation.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not possible politically because of that basic question of, how do you balance representation to represent all of the Isla Vista community?” Williams said. “How do you represent the 7,000 … people who live here longer than four years at a time when the vast majority live here for a shorter duration?”
Jonathan Abboud, Sixth District Representative on the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees and former UCSB Associated Students president, said he believes a CSD is a more viable option for I.V.
“It’s a concept that’s applied throughout the state,” Abboud said. “It’s almost like being a city without being a city. You can do almost everything except land use policy.”
Another potential policy that was discussed at the meeting was the implementation of a UUT — a form of tax levied on the consumption of utilities services, such as water, telephone and gas — specifically to raise revenues to fund additional services for I.V.
According to Jay Freeman, an alumnus and local business owner, a utilities tax could provide the funds for better services for I.V. residents to the tune of roughly three million dollars.
Freeman said he suggests further research be conducted as to the effects a UUT would have on I.V. residents.
“That kind of balances the books with what we would be trying to do with a city,” Freeman said. “I’m really interested in the idea of maybe trying to construct a new financial study that instead of just looking at what we have looks at what we have combined with what we do.”
Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr was skeptical about the logistics of implementing taxes in I.V. if it remains unincorporated as a CSD.
“It’s difficult to carve out one part of the unincorporated area for something to apply to,” Farr said. “The Board of Supervisors could look at trying to put a UUT on the ballot but it would have to apply to county-wide in all of the unincorporated areas.”
A.S. President Ali Guthy said the student body is not satisfied with the status quo regarding I.V. and would support the establishment of a stronger form of local government.
“I think students are really on board with this movement,” Guthy said. “We’ve been having these conversations in summer and I think there were questions before about do we like the status quo? In the conversations I’ve just been having, speaking from a student perspective, is ‘No.’”
According to Guthy, students feel the current level of safety in I.V. is an issue that needs to be addressed.
“Students feel unsafe walking just to their homes at night, you know, just walking from the library and that sense of insecurity in our own community is problematic,” Guthy said.
No decisions about the most suitable form of self-government were made at the meeting. However, it was stated that more roundtable meetings and public forums will be held at times and locations yet to be determined.