The first Isla Vista self-governance town hall of the year was held Thursday night at Santa Barbara Hillel to gather community feedback about how to improve infrastructure and services in Isla Vista through the creation of a Community Services District (CSD).
The town hall was held by the office of Santa Barbara Assemblymember Das Williams, who introduced Assembly Bill 3 (AB3) in the state legislature to create a CSD for I.V. by act of the legislature. Attendees were asked to join different groups in order to discuss current issues facing I.V. in a small setting and then afterward presented their findings to the larger audience. The groups focused on potential services that could be offered by an I.V.-specific CSD, included improved plans for parking and transportation, planning, housing, health and wellness, arts and culture, infrastructure, community advocates, a community center, lighting and public safety.
Santa Barbara Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Evan Goodman opened the event and said Hillel has hosted a number of community organizing events related to self-governance from last Spring quarter to present day.
“We feel it is very important that the community, the members of this community, the students in the community at large take responsibility for our community to make it a better place,” Goodman said, “So, little by little, we are moving the ball down the field.”
Community organizer Darcel Elliott, who kicked off the forum with a discussion on services related to law enforcement, said policing practices in I.V. need to be “proactive”.
“Since the population has grown and the number of officers has stayed relatively steady, there has been more reactive policing as opposed to proactive,” Elliott said, “So we were talking about a need for someone who is dedicated just to proactive policing, and we also talked about the expansion of the CSO program, which is the community service officers on campus.”
Third-year economics major and Isla Vista Tenants Union (IVTU) President Andrey Bogdanov said there will be a march on Feb. 13 from 12–3 p.m. in support of tenants that were kicked out of their apartments on the 6700 block of Abrego this past October.
“We are carrying on our campaign ‘Tenants Reclaiming Isla Vista’ to fight for reallocation benefits for six tenants evicted from the Abrego Villas,” Bogdanov said, “I really hope to see as many of you there as possible to show support for these tenants who were unjustly, unlawfully evicted.”
I.V. Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) board member and fourth-year global studies major Jacob Lebell said improved transportation services need to be introduced to I.V.
“The buses could maybe be linked to a system of bike rentals or something, like the city bikes in New York or something,” Lebell said.
According to Lebell, the typical I.V. internet connection is slow and expensive, thus he suggested empowering an I.V. CSD to break the current cable monopoly by providing other internet services to Isla Vistans.
“Trying to either get more competition of internet service providers or maybe even trying to have like a community services district have the ability to create a municipal broadband internet, maybe that could even be a source of raising a little bit of revenue,” Lebell said.
Williams also gave a brief history on past attempts to turn I.V. into a CSD and said it is important residents spend money in I.V. in order to continue generating revenue for the local community.
“Cityhood has been tried several times in the past — 1972, 1975, 1983 and I would actually argue really the death nail of city hood for Isla Vista was the incorporation of the city of Goleta because in incorporating, they took the commercial districts where most of you spend most of your money,” Williams said, “So if you ever can shop in Isla Vista, you should shop in Isla Vista, but the other aspect of that is that made it very difficult to be able to establish a city.”
According to Williams, in order to become a city, I.V. would need the approval of LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission, a five-member county board of supervisors commission that has historically denied I.V. the autonomy it sought in the 1970s and 1980s.
“In the past, LAFCO has denied city hood based on lack of financial feasibility or political feasibility,” Williams said, “In 2001 they did — LAFCO did — grant Goleta cityhood, but Isla Vista was left out of the cityhood boundaries.”
Williams believes the creation of a (CSD) is the only option that will allow adequate funding to establish structures that will create change when crises occur in I.V., which said often undergoes cycles of care and neglect.
“I describe the cycle for Isla Vista in … sometimes there is a lot of attention on it [and] resources and efforts come that neglect all those,” Williams said, “Then something really bad happens and everybody gets pulled together and tries to do something and then there is attention and resources, but unfortunately during those times of attention and resources there is not a structural change.”
According to Williams, turning I.V. into a CSD through AB 3 would give I.V. residents the ability to take autonomy over the area they live in.
“It is sort of like, instead of the full sweep of services that a city would have and the full cost of those services, a community Services District is essentially you pick a few services and then you pay for that,” Williams said. “It would serve as the vehicle to settle this long conversation and create the long awaited self-governance structure Isla Vista needs to insure basic needs and services are being provided to the community.”