The lines were drawn – figuratively at least – at Santa Barbara County’s Local Agency Formation Commission’s (LAFCO) five-hour public hearing Thursday night.
LAFCO met to hear public comment regarding the boundaries of the proposed city of Goleta. Approximately 250 people crowded into the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors’ hearing room downtown to give testimony to whether they thought Isla Vista should be included within the boundaries of the cityhood proposal. More than 70 Goleta and I.V. residents spoke to voice their opinions on potential boundaries.
LAFCO Staff Executive Officer Bob Braitman said while both options – including and excluding I.V. from a Goleta city – are financially feasible, he recommended that I.V. should be excluded because of a difference in community identities.
“The Goleta Valley is a complex sub-region of Santa Barbara County,” Braitman said. “It’s unified in many ways, but it’s also very fragmented, both governmentally and in community identity. Many residents of the Goleta Valley perceive I.V. as a separate area, and the I.V. community itself identifies itself as unique. We could recommend inclusion of I.V. for various reasons, but we see community identity as a strong reason to recommend that the commission exclude Isla Vista and UCSB.”
Debate over the financial feasibility of the proposed city and political cohesiveness dominated the public comment period. Goleta Now! Representative Johnni Wallis said I.V. should be excluded because it was not part of the original cityhood petition submitted to LAFCO.
“The focus of political feasibility as well as financial feasibility is a major part of the cityhood proposal,” Wallis said. “I ask you not to supercede the intent of the original proposal, as only one of these options is supported by voter petition.”
The proposed city of Goleta as put forth by Goleta Now! – Option A in LAFCO’s incorporation proposals – would not include I.V. or the university. Option B, which includes I.V., would provide the proposed city with extra financial incentives from the state and increased revenues. The total surplus of the proposed city of Goleta after 10 years is projected to be $7.05 million, compared to a surplus of $40.13 million if I.V. were to be included in the boundaries.
The perceived student voting bloc was a major concern to supporters of the Goleta Now! proposal. Hugh McGuire, a five-year I.V. resident, said he thought fairness and financial concerns were more important.
“There are a lot of people here who think I.V. isn’t such a nice place, but I think it is,” McGuire said. “My money goes to sales tax in Goleta and pays for the property taxes of Goleta business owners, and so on. It’s not fair to let Goleta spend that money on themselves. It should be used for community services, especially because the people who live here work and spend their money in Goleta. Also, one half of the people who live in I.V. are not students.”
Goleta resident Robert Conbright said he was concerned about the influence students might have in local politics.
“If I.V. and UCSB are included, there are people there who will vote for things they will never have to pay for,” Conbright said. “I don’t want people who won’t be here 30 years from now to have a say in how our money is spent.”
UCSB faculty member Marc McGinnes said I.V. should not be excluded because of the different political beliefs of its population.
“LAFCO exists to make sure the boundaries are logical and to check the forces of ‘political expediency’ in the creation of new cities,” he said. “Talk about a voting bloc. The proponents are a voting bloc that is trying to exclude people different from themselves. Let’s design something that will pass at the polls, and Option B is far superior, financially and politically.”
LAFCO plans to make a final decision on boundaries at its next meeting May 3, and those boundaries will be placed on the ballot in November. LAFCO Chairman Tim Campbell said LAFCO needs time to make its decision.
“The commission will want to digest and discuss with staff any questions and issues posed by the public before a vote,” he said. “The commission is being very objective in how it approaches this matter, and we want to have all the information before we make a decision.”