UC Santa Barbara announced through a letter of commitment this week that the university will fund $1.4 million to the Isla Vista Community Services District (CSD) if it is established.
The university pledged an annual $200,000 for seven years to the CSD’s budget beginning in 2017, contingent on the passage of Assemblymember Das Williams’ Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3) into law. The bill, which would establish self-governance in I.V. in the form of a CSD, is expected to appear on the Senate floor next week and, if signed by Governor Jerry Brown, would also need to be approved by voters.
UCSB Director of Capital Development Chuck Haines authored the letter of commitment and in it stated the university is willing to commit the funding annually to support “mutually agreed-upon projects, programs, and/or services” within the CSD.
“The University of California, Santa Barbara is committed to the Isla Vista community, and we share the goals outlined in Assembly Bill 3 of improving local governance, providing better support and services to Isla Vista residents, and improving the safety and quality of life in the community,” Haines stated in the letter.
According to Chancellor Henry T. Yang, the $1.4 million will be sourced from the university’s unrestricted gift funds for the purpose of “enhancing” the environment in I.V.
“We are energetically engaged in a collaborative and multifaceted effort to transform I.V. so that its living and learning environment complements the excellence, diversity, and stature of our pre-eminent, world-class university,” Yang said in an email.
Williams said in a statement Friday UCSB’s financial commitment to the proposed CSD represents a “huge shift” in the university’s role in I.V.
“While UCSB has historically not done enough to serve the needs of Isla Vista, their actions over the last year represent a renewed dedication to improving the public safety and quality of life for residents, many of whom are UCSB students,” Williams said.
Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) trustee and UCSB alumnus Jonathan Abboud said the pledge signifies the “black-and-white” difference in UCSB’s involvement in I.V. today from when he served as Associated Students (A.S.) President two years ago.
“In the past, the university said, ‘We’ll take care of our part, and then we’ll leave the rest to everyone else.’ That was the attitude I received,” Abboud said. “Now, they’re making it clear that they want to be active participants in solving Isla Vista’s issues.”
According to Abboud, the letter of commitment released this week is the first time the university made a statement in support of I.V. self-governance.
“[UCSB] had never made a statement in 45 years since the self-governance issue has been a thing, since 1970, that they wanted to actively help make self-governance work, to actively be a part of the solution in Isla Vista,” Abboud said.
Field Representative with Williams’ office, UCSB alumnus and former A.S. External Vice President of Local Affairs (EVPLA) Cameron Schunk said the potential $200,000 added to the CSD’s annual budget would be “more than substantial” to fund CSD services. Williams’ office plans to release a finalized financial feasibility report for the CSD by the end of September, according to Schunk.
“The financial feasibility report hasn’t been finalized yet — we don’t have any concrete numbers or anything like that — but what I can say is that $200,000 is more than substantial,” Schunk said. “It is definitely enough money to at least augment or supplement whatever level of service the CSD could provide.”
According to Abboud, the potential $200,000 a year is enough to fund projects like improved lighting in I.V. Abboud said $100,000 in federal grants covered the cost of street lamps on Del Playa Drive, Sabado Tarde Road and Trigo Road two years ago.
“We don’t know what the CSD’s budget is going to be yet, but either way, 200,000 could buy you six streets worth of lighting every year, to put that into perspective,” Abboud said. “So, we can do a lot with $200,000 a year. It’s massively beneficial.”
Schunk said, if passed, the CSD will seek most of its funding through a voter-approved Utility Users Tax (UUT), which taxes residents a percentage of their utility bills.
“The services of the district are contingent on a consistent voter-approved funding source, and that would be the [UUT],” Schunk said. “Most of the operations in the district are contingent on the passage of [the UUT].”
According to Schunk, UCSB’s letter of commitment adds a degree of legitimacy to the I.V. self-governance campaign.
“A lot of talk is centered around, ‘Will the CSD be viable?’ or, ‘Is it going to be able to support the services it wants to provide?’” Schunk said. “I think not only does this add legitimacy, but it proves to people that, yes, it can.”