Why do we have to be overly fearful in Isla Vista about getting assaulted, raped, robbed or our houses broken into? Has it ever bothered you that we as Isla Vista residents seem to have almost no say in our future or how we are governed? Have you ever wondered why the street lighting in Isla Vista is so bad, or why most of Isla Vista has no sidewalks? There is a solution to these problems. The solution is for Isla Vista to become a Community Services District (a lesser government entity than a city), giving us residents a larger say in how Isla Vista is governed.
In this UCSB Associated Students election, OPP, various candidates and some current A.S. representatives have mentioned the idea of turning Isla Vista into a Community Services District. Because most of you have probably never heard of such a thing, I am going to attempt to explain to you what a CSD is and how it would improve Isla Vista.
Isla Vista’s founding was a strange one: UCSB decided to allow developers to come in and build up Isla Vista, instead of purchasing it themselves, and making it part of the UCSB campus. This decision has snowballed into numerous problems and is where we find ourselves for the foreseeable future, whether we like it or not. The question is, how do we deal with the hand that we are dealt?
On the one hand, Isla Vista and its residents are so connected to UCSB that UCSB feels some kind of responsibility towards it. On the other hand, it is not part of the campus, and they therefore leave most of the responsibility for taking care of Isla Vista to the County. But Santa Barbara County is a lot larger than Isla Vista — 4,000 square miles with very diverse populations — compared to Isla Vista, which is just half a square mile and made up mostly of students. They don’t have the ability to give Isla Vista the attention and services it needs for Isla Vista to have the quality of life it should have, and it is for this reason that the law allowing the creation of CSDs was established. It allows residents to decide the type and amount of services provided in that community.
In 2002-2003, after studying the problems in Isla Vista for two years, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury came to the conclusion that the best solution to all our problems was to turn Isla Vista into a Community Services District. They weren’t the only ones who mentioned the possibility of I.V. becoming a CSD. When Doreen Farr ran for Third District Supervisor, she mentioned that looking into turning I.V. into a CSD might be part of the solution for Isla Vista.
Currently, the only say that Isla Vista voters have over their future is through the elected Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District (IVRPD). Establishing the IVRPD wasn’t easy either. Many home and property owners opposed it because of the increased property taxes that came along with its creation. But, because the IVRPD was established, I.V. now has over 20 parks, compared with only one park at the time of the IVRPD’s founding.
Looking at Isla Vista’s history, there were many attempts to improve its self-governance, and there were many attempts to turn Isla Vista into a city. All of these attempts failed because of insufficient tax revenue to support the high costs of running a city. Therefore, I don’t think following a failing course is the solution to Isla Vista’s problems. Rather a more practical solution is called for. The only advance in Isla Vistan self-governance that has ever occurred is the creation of the IVRPD, so this is the model that I think we should follow.
With all the problems that exist in Isla Vista — including lack of sufficient safety for the residents, insufficient lighting, sidewalks, street trees, issues with funding graffiti abatement, the lack of a community center and other community facilities and no singular voice to speak for Isla Vista residents — it is time we build upon over forty years of IVRPD successes by expanding the control and say we have over our own services through the creation of a Community Services District.
My vision for this is a community where all the lighting in Isla Vista is up to proper standards, where sidewalks will finally be filled in, where the streets will be full of trees rather than just houses, where we don’t have to beg for money to have graffiti removed, where we will have a community center that Isla Vista will make good use of and where an elected board (very similar to a city council) will be able to stand up and speak for the interests of Isla Vista residents to the County, UCSB, the Sheriff’s Department and other entities. It is even possible that the County will appoint the CSD Board as both an official advisory board and an advisory planning board on Isla Vista matters and on Isla Vista’s growth and development plans.
This project will not be easy. We have support for this project from many entities, including important people in the County and in the Santa Barbara community, but none of them are going to do our work for us. If we want to see an improved Isla Vista, we are going to have to spearhead this project by ourselves. Neither the County, UCSB nor any other entity is going to make this happen for us.
The project is going to take a few years and up to 100,000 dollars. It will include getting 25 percent of voters in I.V. to sign a petition in support of the project. It will require getting professional financial feasibility studies done. It will also require getting the approval from an appointed California State Board called LAFCO, who will look at this project and decide whether it is in the best interest of the County’s orderly growth and development to create this CSD. And finally, it will take having an election, where Isla Vista residents will decide whether they approve of I.V. becoming a CSD or not.
Besides the hard work that will go into this project, we will be viciously opposed in the creation of a CSD by the same people who opposed the creation of the IVRPD over 40 years ago. We will be opposed by most property investors, of whom over 90 percent live outside of Isla Vista and care more about their bottom line than their residents’ quality of life. Some homeowners will oppose the CSD as well because they will be against paying higher taxes. I think that living or owning property in Isla Vista comes not only with benefits (living right by the ocean) but also with responsibilities. It is the responsibility of everyone to make sure that Isla Vista is a safe place and has the proper services needed for an area and population of this size.
So, as hard as the fight will be, I am confident it is one we can win. Our project is a noble one, is feasible and will produce many improvements in Isla Vista. I ask you to do your part to make sure that this project is a success. You might not be here when the project is completed, but think about the good you will be doing for all students and others that come after us.
If you would like to read up more on the project, read the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury Report from 2002-2003, titled “Isla Vista — Take Charge!” Also, take a look at a 2001 report by Economic & Planning Systems titled “Local Government Options for Isla Vista/UCSB.” If you would like a simple overview on CSD’s, take a look the one-page summary written by California Tax Data titled “What is a Community Services District?” If you are interested in reading deeper into this project, take a look at the law that governs CSD’s, which is California Government Code 61000-61226.5. Also, if you want to read up on the process of creating a CSD, look up California Government Code 56000-57550. All these documents and the law are free online and are easily available through a Google search.
If you would like to comment on this project, have any further questions about it, would like to read up on it further or would like to get involved and help, feel free to email me at IslaVistaCSD@gmail.com.
Josh Plotke is a fifth-year biological anthropology major.