UCSB: The Elephant in the Room

A Community Services District in Isla Vista Will Lack the School that Creates the Need

Das Williams’s deluge of AB 3 town hall meetings (27 in all) designed to evoke support for self-governance in Isla Vista ignore the elephant squeezing itself into every gathering while at the same time enveloping our community. That elephant is UCSB. As residents earnestly consider a proposed Community Services District for I.V., UCSB is adding thousands of beds to the equation all without generating any further revenue for the County of Santa Barbara or Isla Vista — the community it sits in.

How can a public university build entire housing complexes, many within the Coastal Zone, in the midst of one of the worst droughts in California history? The answer is that UCSB is not subject to the limitations imposed on any other entity in our community. Witness the 15-year living nightmare imposed on a succession of developers attempting to rebuild the Miramar Hotel.

Meanwhile, with nary a hitch save the limp California Coastal Commission, UCSB is building entire communities at the drop of a hat — many of them in or adjacent to sensitive habitats. The frenzied build out is taking place without any community input or environmental review. The latest add-on is a “hotel” for scholars at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics that has more rooms than the sum total of scholars ever visiting the institute. The building, sitting squarely in the wetland adjoining El Colegio Road, will obscure Isla Vista’s last remaining mountain view, epitomizing the extent to which UCSB can insult our citizenry and environment with impunity.

What does this have to do with Das Williams’s bill? Plenty. The 10,000 additional students, staff, and faculty occupying UCSB’s permit-free housing projects will use the services Williams proposes to sustain with a new tax. Taxation is useless when the proposed area of governance is under the thrall of UCSB. This calculating beast manipulates the community and Williams’s meetings with the usual “independent” reports along with ever-present representatives of UCSB’s student government — hall monitors and nascent Hedgecocks burnishing their law school applications. There is a long tradition of one generation of students reaming the next with self-imposed taxes or tuition increases they themselves will never actually pay. As a UCSB alumnus, Williams should be well aware of this practice and the cast of characters putting the fix in.

Can a Community Services District function when UCSB builds with impunity? (This is a neighbor that can turn the local nightclub and theater into lecture halls without any use permits, parking, or community input.) The answer is no. Williams’s bill must include language that requires UCSB to obtain permits the same as any other entity undertaking major development in California’s coastal zone. Permits are there for a reason — creating cohesive, inclusive, communities. Building out in a drought-stricken community recovering from gang rape, riot, and mass murder is perverse — especially from an institution that prides itself in purveying the tenets of environmentalism.

UCSB is a public institution sustained by the state government to which Williams was elected. State taxes pay for a UC system created to educate California residents — our children. With out-of-state students topping 20 percent at Cal and UCLA, one wonders whether our dollars are really being put to the right use by growing campuses. Eleven percent of the new beds we are paying for at UCSB will go to out-of-state students. That is misuse of our tax dollars.

Students, prospective students, and their tax-paying parents must understand that on top of the University of California’s impending tuition increase, Williams’s AB 3 will add a nonsensical tax on Isla Vista’s permanent residents and future generations of students. The increased cost of living in Isla Vista — including rent, food, you name it — will be passed right on to students and their parents. It is time for our state representative to focus on the real problem — holding UCSB accountable for its impact on Isla Vista while some semblance of a community still exists.


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