LAFCO09Isla Vista has a long history of neglect, abuse and tragedy. It was divided up and zoned in the ’50s and ’60s by the County at the encouragement of greedy property investors and the complacency of UCSB. I.V. has gone decades without proper investment or adequate stewardship. Following the tragic events of last year, the community of Isla Vista has come together to discuss our concerns and how we can address them. These conversations have led us to the current topic of self-governance.

The topic of self-governance is not new. Since 1970, after the Bank of America burning and subsequent riots, the community has been mobilized around the desire to govern itself. There have been three cityhood attempts, the now-defunct I.V. Municipal/Community Council from 1970-1984, the 1972 I.V. Campus Community Services District that was never codified, and attempts to join with the City of Goleta or Santa Barbara.

Currently, Isla Vista’s only form of self-governance is the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District. We are not a part of the cities of Goleta or Santa Barbara and there is no city of Isla Vista. The work of IVRPD is to be highly commended; that is not in question. However, IVRPD is mandated to only focus on issues of recreation and parks. It cannot address issues that are most important to the Isla Vista community such as parking, lighting or tenants’ rights (as shown by preliminary results of an informal I.V. Services survey distributed by the Office of Das Williams).

If Isla Vista were to become a Community Services District (CSD), though, it could effectively implement services that would be able to consistently address the issues that are most important to its residents.


  • We could have control over the construction and maintenance of street lights to improve safety in Isla Vista.
  • We could create a Tenant/Landlord Mediation Board to empower the renters — the majority of Isla Vista residents — and give them recourse for discrepancies they may have with their landlords.
  • We could establish an Area Planning Commission funded by the CSD, through which we could create regulations on building codes and practices to ensure safe and positive living conditions (appealable to the County Board of Supervisors).
  • We could found a community center that would be run by the very residents of Isla Vista.
  • We could exercise control over parking to create regulations to mitigate unwanted out-of-towners who cause havoc in our community, or provide additional parking facilities where we need them.
  • We could, with the IVCSD, manage Halloween and Deltopia to turn them into productive and safe events that benefit Isla Vista, rather than leave it in shambles.


Assembly Bill 3, submitted by Assemblyman Das Williams, was introduced as a result of the community discussions about self-governance that have been occurring since April 2014. AB 3 aims to create a custom Community Services District, primarily based off of cookie-cutter CSD law modified to fit the unique needs of Isla Vista. For example, we can add the powers dealing with parking in Isla Vista or enable the district to enact uncommon forms of taxes that would be more beneficial to Isla Vista.

If Isla Vista were to become a Community Services District (CSD), though, it could effectively implement services that would be able to consistently address the issues that are most important to its residents.

The only other permanent and independent option besides a CSD is becoming a city. Other options, while good in theory, do not have the permanence or “teeth” to accomplish the desires of I.V. residents when County and University support for I.V. declines, as it usually does. Both options — becoming a CSD or city — would effectively give Isla Vista local control over local services.

The differences between cities and special districts (like the one proposed in AB 3) are the responsibilities attached to both, and as such, the cost of maintaining them. Special districts like Community Services Districts are entities that can govern regional areas while taking on only the services the community has decided they want control over. Cities, on the other hand, are legally required to provide a certain set of services. However, a city would provide a larger level of authority and have the ability to directly control things like local ordinances and law enforcement.

Finally, while the County of Santa B250px-WelcomeToIslaVistaarbara is responsible for providing services to I.V. and while Supervisor Doreen Farr has been successful in getting many additional services provided to I.V., we believe a form of self-governance is needed to ensure consistent services will be provided in response to direct local needs. This is why we believe AB 3 is the best option for Isla Vista now, because it is both immediately effective and can act as a springboard to greater governance in the future. It will give us local control over some of our most needed services.

Today, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building residents of Isla Vista will be defending the self-governance movement at the Local Agency Formation Commission meeting, the organization that stonewalled Isla Vista Cityhood in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The more residents in attendance and speaking in favor of self-governance the better chance we have at continuing the movement.

Now, more than ever, we need everyone’s involvement in this issue. A series of town hall and community meetings are being hosted to gather grassroots support, educate and, most importantly, gain input about self-governance options for Isla Vista. The next one will be Saturday, Feb. 21 from 1-3 p.m. in Anisq’Oyo’ Park. The following meeting will be March 5 from 7-9 p.m. at St. Michael’s Church.

It is rational to be concerned about a change this big. However, in order to prevent future tragedy and put Isla Vista on a strong path we need a strong, sustainable local government that can give us self-determination for our community. The IVRPD cannot fulfill this role by its nature and a new I.V. Municipal Advisory Council does not have the independence from the County or UCSB necessary to live up to that charge.

Of course there is always risk with starting something new, but this is a necessary risk that has worked for other communities across the state. We must recognize that Isla Vista is only getting attention right now because of the events of last year; the clock is ticking on this tidal wave of attention. As more time passes, the less likely we are to capture the attention of decision-makers who currently determine our future. The success of this movement will do much in the way of shifting the culture of Isla Vista, for as the quality of living for residents increases, so too does their sense of pride and stewardship in their community. Isla Vista’s ability to take charge once and for all is under scrutiny from many sources and so the question is ours to answer: How do we want Isla Vista to be remembered?

Jonathan Abboud is the former AS President and current SBCC Trustee and Cameron Schunk is the External Vice President for Local Affairs.

For more information about self-governance visit: