Yesterday, students and other Isla Vista residents gathered at the Biko House on Sueno Road to discuss local community issues regarding the recent influx of commercial food, finance and residencies.
Reclaim I.V. featured an open forum, which allowed the roughly 20 attendees to voice their concerns and recommendations about the present state of Isla Vista’s downtown area as well as the future of the beachside community’s urban development plans.
Third-year environmental studies major Kayla Donley said she feels recent efforts to ‘beautify’ Isla Vista have come at the unfair expense of small business owners and low-income families.
“Rent is going up and chains are coming in … we want to maintain I.V.’s uniqueness,” Donley said. “There is a risk of the Food Co-op closing. I.V. was very proactive in the [1970s] and it’s not like that anymore; we need to change that.”
However, other citizens such as Isla Vista Food Co-op general manager Melissa Cohen expressed contrary interests. According to Cohen, the presence of corporate banks, such as Isla Vista’s newly built Chase Bank storefront, have the potential to bring in much-needed revenue and benefit surrounding businesses.
“I’m pro some development. It benefits us businesses to have you guys spend your money here. The bank creates services in community — real community with services you guys can use,” Cohen said. “You hold powers with dollars. You vote with dollars. The Co-op is the direct result of four years of community members wanting it to stay and I’m very blessed that you guys want us to stick around.”
Katlen Abuata, a third-year political science major, added that the I.V. Long-Range Development Plan fails to protect non-corporate interests within the community, resulting in increased housing costs and a lack of helpful resources for the local population.
“We need to protect our community. There should be credit unions in I.V., not banks,” Abuata said. “Development projects and chains and corporations are moving in and moving out [are] poor families and small business owners.”
Isla Vista Tenants Union Vice-Chair Alexander Maitan said rising living costs in the region are causing non-student residents to lose their homes.
“[Landlords will] evict people, renovate apartments [and] then lease them out to students for higher costs,” Maitan said.
While Cohen did show support for recent commercial developments, she said students should be more proactive in choosing what businesses to support and encouraged them to back privately-owned smaller business likes the Food Co-Op as opposed to chains like Trader Joe’s. According to Cohen, students need to ensure that the community moves in a positive direction by continuing long-term development projects to continue past their dates of graduation.