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Isla Vista’s Singularity

What Makes the Town Unique yet Problematic?


Many signs pointed to the fact that things were getting out of hand in Isla Vista. Locals have talked about the problems percolating just below the surface for several years. Some longtime residents decided that things have changed so much that they moved out. All the things that made the area desirable: the laissez faire attitude, the freedom of expression, and the positive energy, have morphed into something unrecognizable. With the recent events, everyone, not just locals, have been made aware of the problems. However, in order to find solutions, people have to understand what makes the area unique yet problematic.

Cat Neushul

Take, for example, the relatively innocuous problem of making sure bicyclists obey traffic laws, like stopping at stop signs. A police officer I talked to said such a ticket was thrown out of court one time because when the citation was contested, the judge said that each and every person who broke this law had to be ticketed, or no one could be. With all the other issues police officers in I.V. have to deal with, it would be difficult for them to stop and ticket every single bicyclist who didn’t stop at a stop sign.

In Santa Barbara and Goleta, people who break the law, and get caught, suffer the consequences: In I.V., there is no guarantee. People who live in the area can cite many examples when they have learned that the laws enforced elsewhere don’t seem to apply in I.V.

With these types of obstacles to progress, making improvements can be daunting. Many people, however, have taken the recent events as an impetus to bring people together to make this type of change happen. One of these people is Beatrice Contreras, UC Santa Barbara’s Associated Students external vice president of Local Affairs. She organized a town hall meeting last Monday to discuss ways that I.V. could move toward self-governance.

One major problem Isla Vista faces is the many agencies with responsibilities and jurisdiction in the area: the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD), and UC Santa Barbara, for starters. But no single group sits in charge. This year’s Deltopia celebration is a prime example of the problems that arise when there is no clear idea of who is responsible and what they have the authority to do.

Discussing the Idea of Self-Governance

More than 200 people attended last week’s meeting, including UCSB representatives, 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, Santa Barbara Councilmember Gregg Hart, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Isla Vista residents, students, and members of the IVRPD. “I thought it was a great idea to get them together,” Contreras said. “The point of the town hall meeting was to discuss what to do.”

Contreras, a senior majoring in sociology and Asian-American studies, first gave a historical view of self-governance in Isla Vista. A community council ran things from 1973 to 1983 and was funded by UCSB and the county; it also made three attempts at cityhood. Contreras said that the Isla Vista Community Council operated with annual allotments of about $9,000 from UCSB and $10,000 from Santa Barbara County.

After listening to the presentation, small groups gathered to discuss the type of self-governance they would like to see and then shared their results. Contreras reviewed some of the ideas people suggested, which included reinstating a community council, applying for cityhood, becoming a community services district like Cuyama, being annexed by a nearby city, and maintaining the status quo.

“I felt really great about it,” said Contreras of the meeting’s immediate results. “It was a really constructive conversation.” Another town hall meeting is scheduled for October.

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