Property Plan Takes Charge of Isla Vista Buildings in Hopes Of Fostering a Sense of Community Spirit

The state Department of Finance approved a plan allowing three Isla Vista properties on Embarcadero del Mar — previously a medical clinic, church and parking lot — to persist under control of Santa Barbara County, rather than being sold for development on Feb. 20.

The plan, called the Long Range Property Management Plan, was put forth by the Successor Agency to the Former Isla Vista Redevelopment Agency and the Oversight Board. With the three I.V. properties now being retained, the County will maintain the medical clinic at 970 Embarcadero del Mar and convert the church building at 976 Embarcadero del Mar into a community center; while the third property is the Solar Car Park located at 881 Embarcadero del Mar. The DOF’s approval has come after months of efforts by Isla Vista community members and local elected representatives.

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr helped local efforts to bring a community center to Isla Vista, as she said the beachside community’s relatively large population — 22,000 residents, as opposed to comparable local areas with just 5,000 to 6,000 people — necessitates such a communal resource.

“Isla Vista is just fighting to have what all the other communities in the county have,” Farr said. “Isla Vista is 22,000 [people] and it doesn’t have all the structure of city government; it just has county government. And we fight really hard, but it just takes a lot of resources.”

Farr also said the property’s preservation was due to the work of many longtime members of the Isla Vista community, such as Carmen Lodise and Frank Thompson, who helped organize community efforts, as well as UCSB students, represented by the Office of the Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs.

“Having so many members of the community come and speak to the board of supervisors made a world of difference,” Farr said.

A.S. EVPLA Alex Moore said he was relieved the DOF ruled in favor of retaining the properties, marking a huge victory for the Isla Vista community.

“This was our last chance to save public buildings from development. Look in Isla Vista; there is no open space,” Moore said. “Going into this, it was a 50/50 chance and everyone was telling us it’ll get knocked back down at DOF, so this is huge.”

According to Moore, his role in the negotiations was to represent the voice of students to the county and the various boards involved in the decision-making process.

“A stronger and better community of Isla Vista is better for the student body,” Moore said. “Studies show that communities or towns in which a centric community is stronger have lower crime and just in general better outcomes for their citizens.”

Local housing co-op expert and former Isla Vista Community Council representative Frank Thompson said the idea behind the community center is to establish a hub for Isla Vista residents to use and enjoy as their own.

“The general interest is to make a wide range of services available to Isla Vistans at that location, as well as meetings and performances and speaking events and birthday parties — those types of things that really make a community,” Thompson said.

According to Moore, a community center will help bring students living in Isla Vista closer together with other community members.

“Oftentimes, students and other community members don’t interface; they don’t interact at all,” Moore said. “Your community center gives you that opportunity to interface with the rest of your community.”


A version of this story appeared on page 3 of Wednesday, February 26, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.