Efforts to bring a representative voice to Isla Vista took a big symbolic step forward after a bill was introduced this week that would establish a community services district in the unincorporated college town. Drafted by Assemblymember Das Williams, AB 3 would create a governing mechanism with the taxing powers to address infrastructure needs such as street lights, garbage, law enforcement, firefighting, and roads.
A series of well-attended town hall meetings were held earlier this year to solicit input from the community about what type of self-governance model would best suit the needs of the diverse town made up of 23,000 students and long-term residents. In the past, other governing options that were considered ranged from annexation by Goleta or Santa Barbara to full-on cityhood. Some long-term residents have been opposed to a community services district, fearing that short-term students would vote in taxes and then skip town.
Williams acknowledged these sentiments and said such voices are important, which is why the model would incorporate both elected and appointed representatives, he said. Further, he added that creating a community services district through the state legislature — as opposed to through Santa Barbara’s LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) — allows for some flexibility in how it would operate. Williams called the bill a culmination of many community meetings and said that his hope is the measure will create dialogue moving forward about how best to meet the needs of I.V.
A committee created by the UCSB Board of Trustees extensively studied Isla Vista during the summer months and recommended that a governing mechanism was one of the key ways to improve the area. The committee called on the state to act, explaining in the report, “The current situation in Isla Vista diminishes the value of the State’s investment in UC Santa Barbara; therefore, the State must act to protect its investment.”
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents Isla Vista, said in a statement she was supportive of a new approach as Isla Vista has been plagued by the same problems since the 1970s. “Through state legislation, I’m hopeful that we can begin to address some of the chronic issues that have faced Isla Vista for decades and at the same time provide the diversity of stakeholder representation that the community wants and deserves.”
Williams said he will hold stakeholder meetings during the next three months, and any amendments to the bill will be finalized by March before it goes to the Assembly floor next summer. “We feel that there is good precedence,” he said. “The legislature has already expressed its will that there should be a community service district.”