The birth of a new city is before us. No doubt the gestation has been long and the labor arduous, but the real pain is being inflicted upon those of us waiting expectantly for the Local Agency Formation Commission to announce whether it will deliver “Option 1” or “Option 2” to voters in the November election.
At stake is the future financial stability of Isla Vista and the proposed city of Goleta. LAFCO was presented with two options for Goleta cityhood by its staff. Option 1 excludes I.V. and UCSB; the city boundaries would be very similar to those proposed by the highly vocal Goleta Now! proponents. Option 2 would include I.V. and UCSB within the city limits of Goleta. The final vote on the exact boundaries for the new city is expected to take place during LAFCO’s meeting today at 2 p.m.
But while it may seem logical to include I.V. in the city of Goleta – they share both geography and sewage facilities – many Goletans are fighting tooth and nail for its exclusion. The rationale for this argument cannot be based on fiscal consideration. Economic projections for the city of Goleta without Isla Vista suggest a balance after 10 years of $7 million, while a city that included I.V would have a balance of $40 million after the same time period.
This huge financial windfall is due to I.V.’s large population base. The state provides subventions of money – dependent on population size – to jump-start new cities. It is in the best interests of a new city to have a large number of people living within a small area; this is exactly what Isla Vista has to offer the city of Goleta. However, these subventions are only distributed during the conception of a city. If the city of Goleta considers annexing Isla Vista at a later date – as some Goletans have proposed – there will be no extra state money and, as such, no real incentive for annexation. LAFCO’s vote is certainly a situation of now or never.
Why then should such a logical and mutually advantageous proposal be rejected so ardently by a small, but vocal, group of Goleta residents?
The answer is quite simple: Some Goletans are perfectly happy to cut off their nose to spite their face. Isla Vista’s inclusion is not advantageous to a minority of Goletans. And these individuals are making use of traditional stereotypical “ideological” differences between I.V. and Goleta to promote their own agendas. Some of those most strongly opposed to I.V.’s inclusion in Goleta are local landlords. It seems unlikely that their opposition stems from a fear of differences in “community identity” rather than a fear of losing money. Isla Vista slumlords are worried that if students were to have a voice in their own city they might impose some form of rent control or stiffer building regulations. Although these concerns are greatly exaggerated, perhaps they are justified from their point of view. In any case, their efforts to exclude I.V. from the city of Goleta should be recognized for what they are – desperate, self-interested moves to preserve a profit.
The real rationale for opposing Isla Vista’s inclusion is pure, unadulterated fear of political difference between the two communities. The largely conservative Goleta Now! proponents claim Isla Vista is a transient population of uneducated voters who will not be around long enough to pay for or appreciate the consequences of the local issues they vote on. This is one of the most often heard – and least challenged – reasons for I.V.’s exclusion. However, I.V. and Goleta have remarkably similar voting patterns. In addition, Californians stay in the same city for an average of only three years, whereas most students in I.V. stay for at least four years, and are quickly replaced. And even if the student population of I.V. could be considered transient, half of the people in I.V. are not UCSB students and half of UCSB students don’t live in I.V.
As both UCSB enrollment and I.V. rents increase, more and more students are moving into Goleta neighborhoods, working in Goleta businesses and patronizing Goleta stores. As population numbers grow in Southern California, our communities will only be squeezed closer together, which will make the gerrymandered city boundaries all the more ridiculous. While some Goletans would like to see a small homogenous city, differences in identity strengthen a community. The only way to create an economically viable, dynamic city that fully caters to the needs of its residents is to include Isla Vista in the Goleta cityhood proposal.