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The Fox and the Chicken Coop

Bias, Deceit, and Sleaze in the Public Square


These are some observations about bias, deceit, and sleaze in the public square.

I understand an economic impact study is being commissioned on the unique Community Services District for Isla Vista being developed under the leadership of Assemblymembers Das Williams. While the parameters of this legislation are still in flux, a consultant to do such a study has been picked — Economic & Planning Services (EPS) of Sacramento, Los Angeles, and … Oakland, the home of the University of California administration.

It’s even being mentioned that the UCSB Foundation might contribute financially to this study, in which case, they will likely be able to influence its purpose and direction. This and the proximately of U-Central and EPS, it’s useful to review the quality of the studies the university commissioned on Isla Vista’s three cityhood proposals (1973, 1976, and 1984). To quickly summarize, the university’s behavior was biased, deceitful, and downright sleazy.

1973: Biased

In the early 1970s, the County of Santa Barbara hired the Arthur D. Little consulting firm to advise it on local government options for the Goleta Valley (Goleta, Hope Ranch, and Isla Vista), which by then had a population equivalent to the City of Santa Barbara. The study concluded that annexing the three communities to the existing city was the best option. Creating a city including the three communities was second best. Establishing separate cities was third best, but still better than the status quo.

As the result of the 1972 advisory election on local government options, the Isla Vista Community Council (IVCC) began preparing a proposal for incorporating Isla Vista/UCSB into a city. Independent cityhood had garnered more than 80 percent of the vote in the advisory election. The UCSB administration, with permission from the UC Regents, began preparing its own study of local government options for the campus and Isla Vista, with a promise to take account of Isla Vista’s uniqueness and aspirations.

To do the study, the U brought in an L.A.-based consulting firm, which interviewed many community leaders. Their report recommended an expanded City of Santa Barbara with neighborhood councils for Goleta, Hope Ranch, and Isla Vista so that these areas could tailor some services within their jurisdictions.

Disappointed with this suggestion, the IVCC continued developing its proposal for an independent city, which it submitted to LAFCO in the fall 1973. However, over the next several months, the UCSB administration spent an estimated $75,000 bringing this so-called “two-tiered” annexation proposal before LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission). LAFCO then rejected I.V.’s cityhood proposal 4-1 in favor of a public vote on annexation. In March 1975, this plan was rejected by area voters 3-1; it was 10-1 against in Isla Vista.

It turns out that the consulting firm that recommended the two-tiered approach was noted for it and had recommended it for other urban areas on several occasions. So, the UCSB administration didn’t bring a clean slate to their participation in examining the local governance options facing Isla Vista.

1976: Deceitful

Following the defeat of the university’s annexation proposal, the IVCC prepared another proposal to incorporate Isla Vista/UCSB. A local consulting firm, Tecolote Associates, was hired by UCSB to examine the proposed city’s finances. The firm concluded that the city was “not financially feasible” because it didn’t have enough revenue to pay for a fire department — a not-too-subtle reminder of the fire that razed the Bank of America six years earlier.

The truth was that the city would not have to form an independent fire department, and the fire chief wrote a letter to LAFCO stating that fact. Unless its residents voted otherwise, the county would continue to provide fire suppression and paramedic services at no additional cost. In that situation, residents would be most unlikely to vote to impose an unnecessary tax on themselves.

Still, doing the UC’s bidding, Tecolote asserted that the proposed city would have to rely on a volunteer fire department. At the UC Regent’s meeting discussing the issue, Regent W. Glenn Campbell, the head of the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford, obviously had been coached behind the scenes because he blurted out, “How could we trust that your volunteers would put out another fire? There’d be another great conflagration!”

The Regents turned down IVCC’s request to remain neutral in this campaign, opposed it, and LAFCO again voted against putting the independent City of Isla Vista on the ballot.

1984: Sleazy

The third proposal to set an election on a City of Isla Vista including the UCSB campus was accompanied by a petition containing the signatures of 25 percent of the town’s residents although only 5 percentwas required. Chancellor Robert Huttenback announced his opposition to the plan even before the official proposal was submitted. Several months later, he commissioned a San Francisco firm to do a hatchet job on the proposal, inventing services and costs unwanted by the proponents.

The official EIR on the proposal bottom-lined that with an annual $18/resident tax increase, the proposed city could roughly triple the level of municipal-type services provided by the county and have $10 million in the bank at the end of its first decade.

The plan was rejected at LAFCO, again 4-1.

Carmen Lodise was an activist in Isla Vista for several decades. In 1972, he was an elected member of the Isla Vista Community Council and was in the leadership of all three cityhood campaigns through the years. In 1976, he was elected to the board of directors of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District and participated in purchasing the district’s first million-dollar-bundle of parklands. For 1987-89, he published a weekly newspaper, the Isla Vista Free Press. In 1991, he was a member of the Committee to Save Perfect Park, and in 2003 he was involved in raising the funds to build a monument there to the worldwide anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. In 2014, he was part of the campaign to save two buildings in the center of town for a community center. Lodise is retired and lives in Barra de Navidad, Mexico.



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