Though Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors hearing on Isla Vista was largely procedural, Assemblymember Das Williams’s AB 3 received some love.
AB 3 is the unorthodox legislation recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown that could establish a community services district in I.V. if approved by voters next November. On Tuesday, the supervisors unanimously supported sending an application (and $6,100 fee) to the Local Agency Formation Commission, better known as LAFCO, to review the proposed district. Earlier this year, Williams amended AB 3 to allow LAFCO to review the district in attempt to appease its board and receive feedback. (LAFCO, which is the traditional agency to form special districts, does not have the power to kill this one.)
Though AB 3 mandated this procedural action, the supervisors’ tone was more hopeful than the one voiced countless times since the bill’s inception one year ago. Now that the bill has become law the voices of opposition have quieted some. Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino, who both previously opposed the bill, cautioned about the realistic services the district could provide. A recent fiscal study of I.V. found the utility tax funded district would bring in at most about a half million dollars in revenues; UCSB pledged to contribute an additional $200,000.
“I know as a student that sounds like a heck of a lot of money,” Lavagnino said. But he worried in three to four years residents would be left wondering what their additional taxes got them. “You are not supposed to be pragmatic at this time in your life,” he said, adding, “Great things come out of UCSB.”
Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents I.V., has continuously called the bill a good step for the overcrowded college town void of local control. She called the impending two-thirds vote a “hurdle.” If residents do approve the district, she said, it would be a mechanism to augment county coffers. Every dollar the community can raise, she said, is one less dollar they will ask from us. The benefits of community gatherings extend beyond fiscal ones, she added.
Bob Geis, the county’s auditor-controller, also said he supported AB 3. He and his staff told the supervisors the county spends about $18 million in services for Isla Vista, but brings in just $10 million in tax revenues from I.V. (Notably, Proposition 13 prohibits some buildings from being assessed at market price.) It was noted UC’s purchase of the three Tropicana properties will soon take them off the county tax rolls.
Geis emphasized the loss of funds from the redevelopment agencies, which prior to their dissolution in 2012 were intended to go to sidewalks, deferred maintenance, and other things. He estimated a need of about $4.5 million to adequately fund infrastructure improvements.
During public comment, I.V. resident Pegeen Soutar said Isla Vistans spend plenty of dollars outside of Isla Vista. The good news, she said, is that efforts to change the Isla Vista culture have already proved fruitful.
Next November, Isla Vista voters will be asked to approve the creation of the district and the utility tax. Also, five of the seven seats on the board will be up for grabs. Two seats would be appointed — one by the UCSB chancellor and the other by the county. The fact that the measure will be placed on the general presidential election rather than the June primary is a boon for it.
Williams, who is running for 1st District Supervisor, has definitely ruffled feathers with some county insiders with the lengthy roll out of AB 3, which constantly changed in its language before it was signed in October. But on Tuesday, he had a big grin on his face. Perhaps it was the somewhat unexpected success of AB 3. Or maybe it was his three-month-old baby he had in tow.