In scheme and intention the creation of the Community Service District in Isla Vista is the work of UCSB administration. It is a calculated effort to exert greater control over Isla Vista and the student population of the community.
The move to create the special district is a project of University administration. It is not a student movement and will be used against the students.
It comes from administration embarrassment over Isla Vista and the perceived need for image repair after the 2014 shootings. Chancellor Henry T. Yang has been quoted saying, “Isla Vista has become a drag on the University’s national and international reputation.” Parking restrictions are a fundamental goal of the special district. Restrictions will be used to limit student mobility and visitor access.
Local media has been covering this subject for over a year, and by my count I have read five or six versions of how this effort came about. From former students and retired professors, the UCSB Foundation and Trustees, the idea came from everywhere and anywhere, every story sliced very finely, scrubbed clean and intended to prove the impartiality of university administration. The idea was forced upon them; they had to be compelled to become the major organizing factor behind the special district and commit over a million dollars to its solvency.
An obvious fact about the drive for the Community Service District is that it is not a student movement. I remember the Isla Vista of the early 1970s when the original drive for Isla Vista cityhood took place. There was a highly politicized student population; scores of young people took part in canvassing and circulating petitions. Students crowded and overflowed the Board of Supervisors meeting room on many occasions. The project, however, ran into the same stone wall more than once: the denial of financial viability for the Local Agency Formation Commission.
If the original idea for Isla Vista self-governance came from the student politics of the 1960s, it would be a mistake to assume it was a cause embraced by all progressives. The simplest and most lasting criticism of Isla Vista semi-independence is that it will not work for the students. The situation favors the stable, lasting forces. The students pass through, while UCSB administration is always there. The students will always be playing catch-up, always at a disadvantage.
UCSB administration would not advocate and support the creation of the Community Service District if they did not think they could control it. What they once opposed as a student movement, they now advocate. They recruited assemblymember Das Williams to write legislation to push aside the Local Agency Formation Commission. The political machinery put to work with Williams’s help is the most remarkable I have seen in over 40 years of Santa Barbara politics. It is a steam roller of paid staff and political hierarchy that all comes from outside Isla Vista. It is fraud calling for democracy. It is a powerful institution with a politician in its pocket.
Parking restrictions are the most often-stated goal of the special district. The whole intention is to constrain, confine and sequester Isla Vista to prohibit its free and easy access. A cumbersome, expensive system of stickers and tickets and 24 hour supervision would be created. Students who expect their friends to be able to visit would be faced with numerous obstacles.
When students go to vote on Nov. 8, they will find a convenient slate of candidates, all approved by the UCSB-Das Williams machine. At this point, if anyone in Isla Vista feels like they are getting something shoved down their throat, they are. The cynicism of dominance pretending to be democracy is grotesque. This is not I.V. liberation. It is I.V. lockdown.
Dean Stewart is a local writer and historian.