The phrase “community center” gets thrown around a lot in Isla Vista. We would like to take a chance to make the case publicly for why this is a big deal for Isla Vista, as board members on the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation (IVCDC). A community center by itself, admittedly, doesn’t do anything, but it acts as a hub for all residents of Isla Vista to channel their culture, knowledge and creativity. Most towns even smaller than ours have something like this. People use it as an opportunity to host events, teach or take classes or simply as a place for the community to meet.
While the Pardall Center is a great facility, the building’s space just does not fit the bill for a hub of community-wide activity. Studying late at the Pardall Center and taking advantage of the free printing for that report due tomorrow is one thing; teaching 30 people how to bake a chocolate cake is another. Meeting with your group to prepare that PowerPoint presentation is what the Pardall Center is made for, but bilingual household finance classes that help you balance a checkbook and build your credit? We’re gonna need a bigger building (and probably a projector with a screen, ample seating, a PA system and maybe even a stage). That same infrastructure can help a student find their passion by teaching a dance class to local youth, and later that evening the space could become a warming center for those in the area facing homelessness and cold nights outside.
We are also both part of the Santa Barbara Progressive Coalition that meets at La Casa de la Raza in the Eastside neighborhood of Santa Barbara. There are constant karate and dance classes, a demonstration cooking kitchen, band practices and family events while our meeting is happening; it truly feels like the community is alive and thriving. A similar facility in Isla Vista would do so much to amplify the culture of Isla Vista by providing a central public space for us to come together to express ourselves, learn and develop bonds within the community.
In the summer of 2013, Isla Vistans from many generations — along with Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Associated Students — convinced the State of California Department of Finance not to sell the property at 970 and 976 Embarcadero del Mar. These are commonly referred to as the I.V. Clinic Building and old church building. During the 2015-2016 county budget process, I.V. residents along with Farr successfully lobbied for $485,000 in grants to renovate the 976 old church building and open it for public use as the Isla Vista Community Center, while the clinic building opened as the Community Resource Building.
With the funding secured, the community began a visioning process to design the space, but all of the funds could only allow the building to be brought up to code with no improvements. That is why the IVCDC strongly supports the County of Santa Barbara in its application for a $1.1 million grant from the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development. If the County secures the grant, we believe the funds should be directed at fully realizing the potential of the Isla Vista Community Center with substantial community involvement in the improvement.
On March 11, we’re going to host a celebration and kickoff event for the Isla Vista Community Center fundraising campaign. We invite past Isla Vistans from every generation, local bands and businesses and, of course, all the residents of Isla Vista, students and families. Join us then for a day celebrating Isla Vista’s rich history and culture before getting to work on finally making this a reality. The event will be from 3-6 p.m. at the Biko House, 6612 Sueno Rd. If you can’t make it and still would like to support the movement for a community center in I.V., email us at email@example.com.
Jonathan Abboud graduated from UCSB in 2014 and serves as a Director on the board of the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation.
Cameron Schunk graduated from UCSB in 2015 and is the President of the board of the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation.