Did you ever expect to be a part of Isla Vista history? This November, all residents of Isla Vista will have the chance to vote on self governance for the first time in history. That’s big. How did we get here, though?
This story begins with the burning of the Bank of America in 1970 — that single event had a ripple effect that permeated through all of Isla Vista’s politics. From the bank burning we came together and organized an elected Isla Vista Community Council. The IVCC worked to help get many major Isla Vista institutions going: the I.V. Recreation and Parks District, I.V. Food Co-op, I.V. Community Center and Isla Vista Youth Projects to name a few. It was the first time I.V. residents organized to take ownership of the issues within our town and address them. They went on to fight for the creation of the City of Isla Vista in 1972, 1975 and 1983, facing obstruction from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and UCSB. With the rejection of the 1983 proposal and loss of County/UCSB funding, the Community Council soon dissolved — leaving Isla Vista without a voice.
In 1990 the State and County of Santa Barbara granted Isla Vista a Redevelopment Agency (RDA) to address blight and improve infrastructure. The RDA was not elected and did not proportionally represent the student demographic, but it sufficed and funded many projects (such as the sidewalks on Pardall and lighting on El Embarcadero) until Governor Jerry Brown dissolved all RDAs in 2012. There was a glimmer of hope to incorporate with the City of Goleta when it was formed in 2001, but LAFCO promptly removed Isla Vista from the boundaries, thereby eliminating hope of Isla Vista cityhood due to a now constricted tax base (Camino Real Plaza’s commercial zone was an anchor of previous cityhood attempts).
I distinctly remember being at an Associated Students Legislative Council meeting in 2012 during which A.S. received news of the RDA dissolution. There was a feeling that the loss of Isla Vista’s only semblance of a community coordinating body and of UCSB’s funding of an Isla Vista Liaison would mean future instability for our already underserved community. The feeling was right — issues built up throughout the next year due to no one having the sole responsibility of addressing them coupled with low levels of revenue at the County and UCSB during the recession. However, the University of California was concurrently experiencing catastrophic budget cuts that caused most of the student energy at the time to be put towards statewide issues. The passage of Proposition 30 in November 2012 gave a temporary reprieve from tuition increases. It was at this time I decided to run for Associated Students President along with my running mate for External Vice President for Local Affairs Alex Moore, who shared my desire to revolutionize the relationship between I.V. residents and the governmental bodies that affect us.
The 2013-2014 academic year … was filled with incidents that shocked the community to its core, but in the end — like the bank burning — created an incredible sense of unity and determination across all facets of Isla Vista.
In mid-August 2013, Moore rushed into my office stating he had found a solution, something called a Community Services District. Only hours later, Josh Plotke, a concerned student and former Isla Vista resident, contacted me with the same information and extensive research he had done. We were discouraged to learn that a CSD would take years to get on the ballot, required what seemed an impossible “yes” vote from LAFCO and that there probably wasn’t the political will to support this push forward. The 2013-2014 academic year that followed was filled with incidents that shocked the community to its core, but in the end — like the bank burning — created an incredible sense of unity and determination across all facets of Isla Vista. Over a series of town hall meetings, community conversations and extensive research and reports during the following summer, the consensus within the student community was that a CSD will be key to building Isla Vista a solid foundation for the future. From this momentum Cameron Schunk — at the time EVPLA — and I presented to a large town hall at St. Mark’s the concept of a CSD specially designed for Isla Vista and put in place through a bill in the State Legislature. Attendees enthusiastically voted to support this idea and by Dec. 2, 2014 we worked with Assemblymember Das Williams to introduce a barebones bill named Assembly Bill 3.
Why is it important that it was barebones? Because what followed was a series of dozens upon dozens of community meetings led by Asm. William’s District Director Darcel Elliott and town hall meetings to write and design every aspect of the bill, from the services we could provide (parking programs, lighting/sidewalks, community policing, a community center and more) to the taxing mechanism used to how the board will be structured — very dense and complicated information that ordinary people passionately learned and debated to form a customized local government for our unique paradise on the Pacific Ocean. Those meetings were and continue to be the most diverse and engaging in town; you could imagine them as the Constitutional Convention for Isla Vista. Through grassroots organizing to lobby for the bill, and in part due to the shared experience of various lawmakers who had lived in Isla Vista, the bill passed on Oct. 7, 2015, exactly one year after the initial presentation at St. Mark’s.
Since the bill became law, we continued to meet each Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. behind Naan Stop to design and agree upon the budget and Service Plan* for the IVCSD to submit to LAFCO. Due to AB 3, they won’t be able to disapprove our proposal but will set the Utility User’s Tax and the initial services. If you believe in self governance for Isla Vista, we need you at the April 7 LAFCO meeting to speak up in support of the community consensus of an 8 percent UUT and authorizing all 8 services. It starts at 1 p.m. — we will prepare our statements from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5. After that is approved, the people of Isla Vista will, for the first time in history, be given the chance to vote on approving the IVCSD with a 50 percent plus one vote, approving the UUT to fund it with a ⅔ vote and electing the first IVCSD Board of Directors.
This is Isla Vista’s political revolution. This is our chance to upend the status quo and finally set in place a system of self governance in which the residents of Isla Vista are empowered to determine the future of our community — permanently and not on the whim of external organizations, but in collaboration with them. This moment in history is over 45 years in the making. Be a part of writing a new chapter for our beloved ocean community.
Contact me if you want to be involved: 310-734-9791, Abboud.Jonathan@gmail.com