It’s easy to forget about Isla Vista. Most residents of Santa Barbara County probably do anyway, but this chunk of unincorporated land may seem particularly negligible in light of this year’s nationally important November 4 election.
The fact is, however, there’s never been a more interesting time to pay attention to Isla Vista. Not only do the nine people running to become one of the five members of the I.V. Recreation & Parks District (IVRPD) board make for one of the more packed races in recent memory, but I.V. residents are also voting on Measure D, a land-swap proposal that would not only alter the layout of I.V. parks but build subterranean parking. Aside from the oversight of the county’s 3rd District supervisor, IVRPD is the only elected body that holds dominion over the seaside community of students and families, conservationists and revisionists, long-timers and transients, artists and enviros, whackjobs and nutcases-all of whom have a particular vision of what I.V. should be.
Drawing the most attention during this election is Measure D, a proposal by the IVRPD that has drawn disparate reactions. Not to be confused with the other Measure D-a sunsetting, county-wide, road-benefiting sales tax that most hope will be renewed with the passage of Measure A-this Measure D proposes to swap certain district-owned plots of land for others owned by the County Redevelopment Agency (RDA). (The exchange of lands is demonstrated in the illustration above.)
The swap would increase the amount of district-owned land at the base of the Embarcadero “U,” but the RDA would purchase the park’s subterranean rights, which would then be developed into an underground garage-estimated to cost between $15 million and $22 million-to help alleviate the town’s parking gridlock. Also, the money that the district would receive as part of the deal could theoretically fund the construction of a community center at Estero Park, in I.V.’s northwest corner. Those opposed to the measure are reluctant to give away any park land and uneasy about uprooting current parks to fit a parking garage; they prefer making a community center out of the former site of St. Athanasius Church at the bottom of the Embarcadero “U,” on land currently owned by the RDA. Measure D requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
Isla Vista voters will also be choosing three people to serve on the I.V. Recreation & Parks District board. While the proposed land swap serves as a handy way to classify these nine candidates, they each have goals they hope to accomplish during their four-year terms.
Liz Buda-a film and media major and one of three UCSB students running for office-aims to give students a needed voice on the district board, which it currently lacks even though students comprise the majority of the community. She serves on UCSB’s Associated Students as the I.V. community relations coordinator, a position that has her organizing major community events. She also served as a student rep on the board that helped craft the I.V. Master Plan. Buda opposes Measure D, she said, because tearing up the parks to put parking beneath them would ruin the parks and the community center isn’t guaranteed. If elected, Buda said she’d want to get students and Isla Vista’s Latino community more involved at district meetings.
Electrical engineering major Josh Cataldo said he was driven to activism after reading the I.V. Master Plan and sensing that it lacked adequate student input. President of the I.V. Co-op Association, Cataldo said he is disturbed by some decision-makers’ plans for I.V. parks because he objects to the construction of parking garages beneath the parks and installation of a community center far from I.V.’s geographical heart. An opponent of Measure D, Cataldo said he’d prefer to respect the heritage of I.V. parks by using them as a place for people to congregate and hold events.
As a member of the current IVRPD board, which helped craft Measure D, Marie Crusinberry supports it. An employee of the Goleta Public Library for the past 17 years and an I.V. resident for 15, Crusinberry also served previously on the district board 12 years ago. Crusinberry cites Measure D as something that could help the long-discussed community center become a reality, though the effort to get it passed has been marred by opponents’ campaign of disinformation, she said. Crusinberry defended the proposal as a specific transaction with the RDA, not a free-for-all that would result in parks being sold off willy-nilly. If re-elected, Crusinberry said she hopes to improve communication about I.V. matters, both between the IVRPD and its constituents.
Perhaps the most vocal critic of Measure D has been Dorothy Dent, a 15-year resident of I.V. whose family owns the I.V. Bicycle Boutique and who is The Independent‘s senior classified ad rep. Dent opposes giving away park lands under any circumstances and believes that the IVRPD should aim to increase the amount of park land and open space. She said she didn’t like the prospect of losing Pardall Gardens- which, if Measure D passes, would be owned by the RDA -and said that the space could instead be beautified to become a gateway between UCSB and I.V. She also prefers that the new I.V. community center exist in the current St. Athanasius building, which currently sits on RDA-owned land.
Recently graduated from UCSB with a degree in environmental studies, Maia Kazacks hopes that her experience beyond the typical student social circles will prove to voters that she’s capable of joining the parks district board. Kazacks, who also served as a social chair for UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board, has been active in the tree-planting collective Goleta Valley Beautiful. As such, one of Kazack’s goals would be to sort out the I.V. tree-planting moratorium, which was implemented by the district to prevent newly planted trees from being torn out as part of the Master Plan. She opposes Measure D and says the IVRPD needs to draw more from the ideas of I.V. residents for future projects.
Current district boardmember Arthur Kennedy touts his accomplishments during past terms among his credentials for being re-elected. Among them, he helped pass Measure A, which ensured that district property could not be sold or leased without a public vote, hence this year’s Measure D. Kennedy says he supports Measure D as a procedure, though he also said he’d support efforts to protect and improve the various historical landmarks around I.V. Owner of an electronic metrology business and an avid participant in area sports, Kennedy said he would be actively involved in the development of the Estero Park sports complex, improving soccer fields and basketball courts without jeopardizing the gardens also located there.
Also a current boardmember, Kelly Pritchard is running for re-election despite being the only boardmember who objects to Measure D. In fact, she claims she was demoted from the position of IVRPD vice-chair because of her objections. Pritchard, a substitute teacher for Goleta Union School District who is furthering her teaching credential via online classes at Cal State Fresno, has lived in Isla Vista for 42 years. She favors protection of the parks as necessary urban green spots, a kinder stance toward the homeless who often use these spaces for refuge, and preservation of the stage in Anisq’Oyo’ park, which Pritchard says is important to the I.V. music and arts scene by virtue of the great acts that have performed there in the past as well as the ones who have yet to play on it in the future.
If any of the candidates has a keen insight into both UCSB students and Isla Vista adults, it’s Bob Sumner, a licensed vocational nurse at UCSB’s Student Health office who has lived in I.V. since 1989. Proud of efforts he’s made along with fellow AFSCME (American Federation for State, County, and Municipal Employees) in contract negotiations with UCSB, Sumner said he decided to run for office after becoming highly dissatisfied with the manner in which I.V. was being run. He vehemently opposes both Measure D and what he perceives as attempts by Santa Barbara County government to control I.V. from afar. If elected, Sumner said he would work to better publicize IVRPD meetings in order to inform students about decisions that may affect them as well as make such governmental doings as open and transparent as possible.
The ninth candidate for the parks district board, Bruce Murdock, declined to return calls to The Independent for this article.