The Isla Vista Community Services District Board of Directors and staff convened for their annual board retreat on March 19 to discuss the state of the community services district, reflect on past accomplishments and lay out their goals and priorities looking forward.
The Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) serves the unincorporated area of Isla Vista to provide local governance, community services and resources related to public safety, housing, parking, public infrastructure and quality of life.
The retreat included roundtable discussions of IVCSD’s staffing capacity and financial position, a review of its community services and ongoing projects and an assessment of the physical spaces utilized by IVCSD.
“Other agencies may be connected to Isla Vista or work in Isla Vista, but we have both of those things plus we are representative of Isla Vista, from our board but also from our staff, some of whom are residents of Isla Vista, all the way up to our leadership, which is a huge strength,” IVCSD Director and President Spencer Brandt said.
The IVCSD Board of Directors reviewed past accomplishments year by year, which included the establishment and expansion of its services, the formation of partnerships with community organizations and building out the internal infrastructure of IVCSD.
From 2017 to 2018, IVCSD established a Rental Housing Mediation Program to help resolve tenant-landlord housing disputes, set up Community Service Organization safety stations in partnership with the UC Santa Barbara Police Department (UCPD) and made its earliest hires for a general manager and district counsel.
The following year, IVCSD established the role for an interpersonal violence investigator with UCPD, the Isla Vista Community Garden grant with the Edible Campus Program and University United Methodist Church, and the beautification and restoration program Isla Vista Beautiful with Northern Santa Barbara County United Way.
Later accomplishments included establishing the Isla Vista Compost Collective, partnering with Goleta Valley Library to offer regular library operations at the Isla Vista Community Center, funding summer youth programs during the COVID-19 pandemic and holding town halls on the future of Deltopia.
Community Spaces Program Manager Myah Mashhadialireza, hired in 2022, expressed her personal commitment to building on the district’s past work.
“[I want to be] making sure that what we already have is great and then expanding services,” Mashhadialireza said.
From 2021 to 2022, the IVCSD worked to reopen the I.V. Community Center, distribute COVID-19 rapid-testing kits, establish the Isla Vista Community Calendar and IVCSD newsletter and implement the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project grant to help develop equitable mobility plans to serve the community.
The district also increased its hiring — filling new positions for a community engagement director, a compost collective program manager and a community spaces program manager.
Looking forward, IVCSD also plans to host the first Isla Vista Spring Festival, an alternative to traditional Deltopia activities, and conduct a study assessing parking in I.V.
When assessing the financial position of the community services district, IVCSD General Manager Jonathan Abboud classified it as “very strong,” quantified by their high year-end fund balances, increasing annual revenues and the existence of $955,000 in unspent reserves and pledged contributions from UCSB.
However, he noted that the 2021-22 period marked the first year in which revenue grew at a slower rate than inflation.
“We always get more revenue than we plan to have. This has been happening every year,” Abboud said. “The reason is because we based our revenue for this year based on the actuals for last year, and they grow every year. Our revenue, so far, has grown by 6.88%, but inflation has grown by 7.5%, so this is the one year where our revenue has grown less than inflation.”
In a staff analysis of the mid-year financial report, IVCSD proposed that they focus their funding and energies on current programs rather than adding new services.
“The 2021-2022 year saw significant investments in staffing and program expansions (IVB, Safety Stations, Compost, Community Engagement), it may be worthwhile to focus on fully implementing and realizing these investments in the 2022-2023 budget rather than on more expansion or ongoing costs,” the report stated.
Brandt identified that one weakness of the district is its limited self-governing powers, which were granted through state Bill AB 3 — a bill passed in 2015 that granted IVCSD the authority to offer additional services typically outside of a CSD’s power.
“There are some concerns that come up in the community, or services that we may talk about providing that we are limited to actually following through on, because of the limitedness of the charter [AB 3],” Brandt said. “Some examples include alternative policing models and addressing the housing crisis.”
In addition, Brandt spoke to his desire to see the public image of I.V. reformed.
“Unfortunately, stereotypes and misunderstandings about our community abound, and I feel like we don’t like to talk about it, but there are some negative images and perceptions of Isla Vista and just incorrect ideas about the safety of the residents and that harms our ability to offer our programs and services,” Brandt said.
Brandt said that IVCSD greatly improved its communications and marketing to local residents within the last year, which he noted was critical in raising community awareness of and engagement with the district.
“We’ve made such great improvements on that, which I think is awesome, to see the year over year change,” Brandt said.
IVCSD Director and Vice President Marcos Aguilar said he hopes that they can generate further engagement, especially with local elections for IVCSD officials.
“In 2024, [it would be great to see greater] engagement during the electorate process, so Isla Vistans have more ownership over the district,” Aguilar said.
Brandt emphasized that the “responsive, helpful, capable staff” and the community they serve add to the strengths of IVCSD.
“Our residents are diverse, energetic, smart, progressive and beautiful,” Brandt said. “They make living here fun, and they make civic engagement happen easily.”