Courtesy of Santa Barbara County Fire

Isla Vista, pictured here during Deltopia 2014, is in the middle of a historic push toward self-governance.

Isla Vista, currently an unincorporated area, is leaping toward self-governance in a historic push that could give residents a say in how the area is run.

The effort toward self-governance is confusing, however, and this confusion is compounded by an alphabet soup of acronyms: CSD, UUT and MAC, to name a few.

Jonathan Abboud and Cameron Schunk co-authored the Isla Vista Plan of Service, which is a tentative plan for how the area would be run if the measures are passed by Isla Vista voters in November.

Residents have been pushing for self-governance for nearly 50 years, as Abboud outlined in a Nexus op-ed earlier in April. To get students and I.V. residents up to speed, the Nexus spoke with Abboud and Schunk and asked them some of the most pressing questions about I.V. self-governance.

You can click on a question below or scroll through the full guide.

1. What is a community service district and how is it different than a city?
2. What are I.V. residents voting on in November?
3. Who will be in charge of the CSD?
4. What powers will the CSD have?
5. How will the CSD pay for these services?
6. What is AB 3?
7. Why can’t the county provide these services with the county tax?
8. How will the CSD change the average Isla Vistan’s day-to-day life?
9. Is the I.V. Plan of Service final?
10. Where can I get more information?

 

1. What is a community service district and how is it different than a city?

Arguably the most important difference between a community service district (CSD) and a city is that cities can make laws while CSDs cannot.

Jonathan Abboud, co-author of the I.V. Plan, said the size of I.V. and the fact that many residents spend their money outside of the area are also factors.

“It’s hard to afford a city with the tax base I.V. has,” Abboud said. “Our sales tax revenues in I.V. are very low. We really only have Pardall [businesses], and a lot of people spend their money in downtown Santa Barbara and Goleta. It’s hard to have a city because we don’t have a tax base for it.”

Both cities and CSDs are required to do certain things, but cities have more responsibilities. For example, a city is required by law to provide police and jail services.

Cameron Schunk, co-author of the I.V. Plan and a field representative for Assemblymember Das Williams, said that Goleta spends half of its annual budget on policing. While Goleta residents are generally more comfortable with law enforcement, Schunk said, I.V. residents may be less willing to spend a substantial amount of money on policing.

“We could never, ever, ever provide police services at all, and even though we have that authority, we’re not required to do it,” Schunk said. “The city has a lot of things that it not only has the authority to do, but the requirement to do.”

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2. What are I.V. residents voting on in November?

On Nov. 8, Isla Vistans will vote on three measures. The first two measures require a simple majority, while the third measure requires a two-thirds majority.

  1. A vote on whether or not to establish an Isla Vista CSD.
  2. A vote selecting five of the directors who will govern the district (see question 3).
  3. A vote on whether or not to establish an 8 percent utility users tax (see question 4).

If passed, all three measures would go into effect on March 1, 2017.

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3. Who will be in charge of the CSD?

Seven directors will govern the CSD. When I.V. residents vote in November on whether or not to establish the CSD, they will also elect five members to sit on a new Board of Directors. In addition, one director will be appointed by the county and one director will be appointed by UCSB.

Spencer Brandt / Daily Nexus

Jonathan Abboud, co-author of the I.V. Plan. Spencer Brandt / Daily Nexus

“The directors are responsible for everything the CSD does,” Abboud said. “They are responsible for making sure it’s fiscally responsible. They’re the ones who vote on policy and make sure the policy is implemented.”

These directors would also hire a general manager to oversee the day-to-day activities that keep the district running.

Four of the five elected directors and both appointed directors would have four-year terms. The other elected director would have a two-year term. There are no term limits for the directors, which Schunk said could work to the Board’s advantage.

“We are very interested in having long-term representation on that board,” Schunk said. “That is helpful for a lot of districts because if there is a question of how they did something 40 years ago, there’s a guy who can answer that.”

Candidates for the Board will have to register to run by Aug. 8.

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4. What powers will the CSD have?

The I.V. Plan outlines eight powers the CSD is prioritizing:

• Municipal Advisory Council (MAC): The MAC would be purely advisory, giving input to the Board of Directors based on feedback from I.V. residents. It is possible that the MAC would include directors from the Board.

• Area Planning Commission (APC): The APC would essentially be a zoning board that would “oversee all new development proposals that are submitted within the Isla Vista area,” according to the I.V. Plan.

• Graffiti abatement: The I.V. Recreation & Park District is currently in charge of washing away graffiti, but the I.V. Plan says finding funding for this program is a “constant struggle.” The Plan proposes a $10,000 annual budget to keep graffiti abatement up and running.

• Parking district: The I.V. Plan proposes funding comprehensive parking studies that will allow the Board of Directors, with the survey data, to establish a parking district specific to I.V.’s needs.

• Landlord-tenant mediation services: UCSB students currently have access to tenant mediation services through the UCSB Community Housing Office, but the I.V. Plan proposes a contract between the CSD and the Santa Barbara Rental Housing Mediation Program specifically aimed toward non-UCSB students in I.V., half of which are Hispanic families, according to the Plan.

• Community policing: The I.V. Plan proposes a “cadet program” run through I.V. Foot Patrol, employing five cadets that would work part-time, especially during weekend nights when UCSB is in session.

• Gutter, street tree and sidewalk infrastructure improvement: A proposed $5,000 would go toward “enhancements to public space” such as trees next to streets, art on sidewalks and benches, according to the I.V. Plan.

• Maintenance and management of community facilities: The I.V. Plan proposes hiring a half-time grant writer whose job would be ascertaining funding for the I.V. Community Center at 976 Embarcadero Del Mar.

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5. How will the CSD pay for these services?

The simple answer is federal grants, UCSB funding and a tax on I.V. residents.

When Isla Vistans vote in November, they will vote on whether to enact a utility users tax (UUT), which will tax I.V. residents’ electricity, water, gas and trash services at a rate of 8 percent. If passed, the tax would go into effect on March 1, 2017, when the CSD is officially established.

Schunk said that, as of now, almost everybody’s services would be taxed equally at 8 percent, although there would be exemptions for low-income residents and families and potentially a difference between residential and commercial properties.

“My hope is that the Board of Directors do a series of public engagement workshops,” Schunk said, “where they meet with stakeholders from the business community, students, community members and say, ‘Here is your expected burden; is that acceptable? Yes or no.’”

UCSB has pledged an annual $200,000 to the CSD for seven years, and backers of the CSD also hope to get additional money by applying for federal grants.

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6. What is AB 3?

Assembly Bill 3, authored by Assemblymember Das Williams and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 7, 2015, gives I.V. the power to do things that no other CSD is allowed to do if it is passed by voters. These services include running a parking district, establishing a tenant mediation program and creating the Area Planning Commission.

“No other CSD in the entire state of California has ever been able to provide a tenant mediation program. No CSD has ever been able to provide code enforcement,” Schunk said. “When we talk about how unique AB 3 and the CSD is, it goes deeper …  There are so many things here that no other district has.”

Abboud and Schunk emphasized that, because the I.V. CSD would be the first of its kind to implement several programs, it is vital that passionate people serve on the Board of Directors.

“There is no precedent for how a CSD runs a tenant mediation program, which is why it’s really important [that the Board includes] people who are critical thinkers who are really looking at the big picture,” Schunk said.

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7. Why can’t the county provide these services with the county tax?

Backers of the proposed CSD say it provides an advantage over county services because the services would be developed specifically for I.V., and the UUT would generate funds that are dedicated to services in I.V.

“The way the county operates, the service they provide you in Isla Vista has to be the exact same service as in the unincorporated Los Olivos area,” Schunk said, adding that the CSD would create more “localized” services.

Spencer Brandt / Daily Nexus

Cameron Schunk, co-author of the I.V. Plan. Spencer Brandt / Daily Nexus

“People in the City of Santa Barbara chose to form a city and tax themselves for services,” Schunk said. “A similar thing is happening here in Isla Vista. You’re seeing residents saying we want these services this way and we’ll pay for them.”

Abboud said that, currently, in order for I.V. to get funding for various projects, it needs the support of supervisors who have no attachment to the area.

“To get funding from the county for things, you need four supervisors to vote in your favor,” Abboud said. “[Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr can be the best supervisor anyone’s been, but if the other supervisors, or even two supervisors, don’t want the funding to go to I.V. for a small service, it won’t happen.”

“The best thing I.V. voters can do is vote for our supervisor,” Abboud said. “We can’t influence what the other districts are doing.”

The CSD would change that and give Isla Vistans representatives who would serve the area directly, according to Abboud and Schunk.

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8. How will the CSD change the average Isla Vistan’s day-to-day life?

Schunk and Abboud said that, for the first time, I.V. residents would have people close by who represent their interests and are focused solely on I.V.’s needs.

“You would have someone to talk to and listen to you whose full-time responsibility is I.V.,” Abboud said. “For a supervisor, I.V. is just a part of what they do.”

Schunk said he often wishes he could direct people to the kind of services that would be provided if the CSD is approved.

“I hear people complain about stuff, but they have no idea who to talk to about it or how to get it fixed or who is even responsible for that problem in the first place,” Schunk said.

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9. Is the I.V. Plan of Service final?

Abboud said the Plan is “just a concept” and that residents should request the services they want to see in I.V.

“If you implemented the Plan word for word, it would work, but it doesn’t have to be a reality,” Abboud said.

Schunk added that the plan is subject to change and is not “set in stone.”

“I want people to feel empowered to go and advocate for the services that they feel most strongly about when the CSD is formed,” Schunk said. “None of those budget items are set in stone.”

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10. Where can I get more information?

The campaign for the I.V. CSD has launched a new website where you can get more information and download the full I.V. Plan of Service.

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[Correction: A previous version of this article said that UCSB would be contributing $200,000 to the CSD over seven years. UCSB has pledged to contribute $200,000 each year for seven years.]

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