The burning question of what to do about Isla Vista remained largely unanswered after a town hall forum at Santa Barbara Hillel on Monday night. At issue is the lack of governing power in the unincorporated college community made up of 23,000 residents and the more than 5,000 students who live on UCSB’s campus but often party in the college town. A fair amount of disagreement exists among involved players as to the kind of self-governing entity that could or even should be implemented, a topic that dates back decades.
During the forum — which was headed by UCSB Associated Students — representatives from the county, Santa Barbara and Goleta city officials, Isla Vista residents, and members of the faith community stood up to give their two cents. “Right now, [Associated Students] tries to represent [Isla Vista], but it only represents the 10,000 UCSB students,” said Jonathan Abboud, former student body president and UCSB graduate. Another few thousand residents attend SBCC. A representative from SBCC was missing from the discussion on Monday, a fact pointed out by Isla Vista Food Co-op representative Ashley Audycki, who likened the discussion to the market’s model: “We wanted self-governance over our food.”
Talk about how to fix some of Isla Vista’s underlying issues first took center stage after the Deltopia riots in April, and university administrators who had historically turned a blind eye on the rambunctious town perked up. Gung-ho students and other activists want the self-governing plans to go as far as councils with taxing powers or even cityhood. But others are quick to point out that is an unlikely and expensive option. Several vouched for the midrange possibility of a Municipal Advisory Council, which the county and UCSB partially financially supported in the ’70s but pulled the money from in the ’80s.
A host of tangible matters — sidewalks, lighting, fencing, and general community services — will continue to be hashed out aside from the self-government issue. Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents Isla Vista, told the audience that regardless of any changes, the county would continue to cover social services like mental health. Abboud acknowledged Farr’s efforts to work with stakeholders but added that he had deferred grad school to stay in Isla Vista one more year to work on giving a voice to residents. “The more local you get, the better.”