UCSB’s purchase of the Tropicana Gardens Apartment Complexes for $156 million resulted in an immediate loss to the County of Santa Barbara of over $1.1 million in property taxes generated per annum from the previous owner. Isla Vista’s largest landlord does not pay property taxes. This year UCSB garnered its 15th successive top ten party school ranking due to mega-parties that consume millions of tax dollars for law enforcement and medical charges.
The real cost of the lucky landlord’s latest purchase is higher. With the Prop. 13 bump, a private party purchasing Tropicana would pay the county at least $1.6 million per year in perpetuity. UCSB’s purchase took away three times the projected $450,000 Das William’s AB3 utility tax might generate — assuming Jerry Brown signs the stinker and I.V. residents are bamboozled into voting for both the Community Service District and the utility tax (set to be separate ballot items, with 6 percent currently being talked about as the tax amount).
The University of California’s nonprofit status absolves the $26 billion behemoth from paying taxes. UC campuses are also absolved from local oversight when it comes to new buildings and development. In Santa Barbara County, UCSB’s only hurdle is the California Coastal Commission, a toothless agency when it comes to UCSB. No environmental impact requirement means the UC economic giant can wield its nonprofit status unfairly and to the detriment of our community.
Californian’s tax dollars already pay for the UC System and double-pay in our community when party time comes to I.V. Make that triple-pay if your child can beat his or her way through the line of out-of-staters. Now Das Williams wants the lucky few who reach I.V. to pay a fourth time — the utility tax. The Lucky Landlord’s take on AB3 is that its residents are exempt. UCSB’s most recent communication states that while UC residents will not pay, the campus will donate — if the district is created — $200,000 from 2017 until 2024. How generous! UCSB takes away $1.5 million per year in perpetuity and “gives” a pittance back as part of its continuing “commitment to improving the safety and services of the Isla Vista community.” What a crock.
Williams claims he is a UCSB graduate and touts his familiarity with I.V. It is time the assemblymember and his mentor, Hannah-Beth Jackson, familiarize themselves with the impact the local UC franchise has on their constituents. Add Francisco Torres (now Santa Catalina Hall) to the UCSB tax shelter, and you are looking at upward of $3 million a year in property taxes taken directly out of Santa Barbara County’s pocket. For a business of this size to avoid paying for services is patently unfair not to mention causing serious long-term damage to Goleta and Santa Barbara. What happens when Goleta needs a desalination plant after all the new showers turn on at UCSB’s high-rise towers? That is infrastructure that taxes pay for.
State government must rein in Isla Vista’s Lucky Landlord. The solution is simple — mitigate by committing UCSB to per bedroom annual fees that match the taxes paid by regular folk. That way the nation’s 6th-ranked party school will join its neighbors in paying for services necessary to maintain a safe, clean community and eliminate fractious, duplicitous taxes imposed by Das Williams. It is time the UC Regents took a good hard look at their “Community Service” mandate and how the UCSB franchise is fulfilling that obligation. Air out the smoke-filled room and provide capable, conscientious, leadership that conforms to the UC’s mission as a public institution.
Peter Neushul is a 30-year I.V. resident.