LAFCO Still Squeamish over AB 3
The latest development in the ongoing saga of Assemblymember Das Williams’s unprecedented legislative effort to set up a vehicle to establish a community service district in Isla Vista is that the UCSB campus would not be included in the district’s boundaries.
That was deliberated over on Thursday at a LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) meeting when the commissioners voted to restrict executive director Paul Hood from attending meetings convened by the Fund for Santa Barbara. The Fund — relative newcomers to the process — is chipping in money for a financial feasibility study to be completed no later than September, and will host regular oversight meetings of 20 or so stakeholders.
That study — by Economic & Planning Systems (EPS), the firm that studied Goleta incorporation — will not focus solely on AB 3, but on all viable governmental options. Commissioners were unanimous in their decision not to allow Hood at those meetings in part because an application to form a special district — a $5,000 fee — has not been submitted to their board. “It’s a slippery slope,” Hood warned commissioners, noting that the commission’s process is an independent one.
The decision not to include UCSB in the boundaries has been a point of interest. After a private meeting with university administrators the week before last, Williams decided to cut the university out of the boundaries. As a compromise, UCSB would perhaps enter a Memorandum of Understanding with the district over some amount of money. Those details have not yet been hashed out. Williams will meet with faculty housing residents who live on the west end of I.V. in upcoming weeks to gauge their interest in being included in the would-be district’s boundaries.
Next week, AB 3 will be heard in a Senate Governance and Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in Sacramento. The chair of the committee is State Senator Bob Herzberg, who was a co-author of the law that gives LAFCO authority to establish special districts all of the state, the process that AB 3 would bypass.
Last month, AB 3 passed off the Assembly floor on a party line vote of 51-26. If it passes out of the Senate committee, off the Senate floor, and is signed by the governor, Isla Vista residents would still need to vote to actually create the community service district.
As currently written, AB 3 incorporates LAFCO commissioners in the legislation in an advisory role. LAFCO commissioners — deemed both a roadblock to Isla Vista self-governance in past decades but also noted for their invaluable expertise in forming special districts — have taken exception to this logic. Why, they have asked, would they want to review a special district if they did not have final say over it? The answer they have been given is that their recommendation could be used when the matter goes to the voters in an election, perhaps in the 2016 primaries or general election.
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