Some folks at LAFCO (Santa Barbara County’s Local Area Formation Commission) are said to be a little upset because the State Legislature has provided a path for an Isla Vista Community Service District (CSD). The state would not have had to step in had the county’s LAFCO not left an obvious urban island when they approved incorporation of one-third of Goleta. This is clearly contrary to the intent of the original LAFCO legislation.
LAFCO was originated by the State Legislature to prevent the plethora of governmental entities that attempt to govern metropolitan areas. It came about specifically because of concern regarding the multiplicity of overlapping governmental jurisdictions in the Los Angeles area.
A reasonable person would likely conclude that an urban area should have an urban government. Currently there are three urban islands that are under the jurisdiction of the Santa Barbara County. The county governments are designed to administer county-wide services and rural areas, not highly populated urban areas like Orcutt, Noleta, and Isla Vista.
Sadly, when it comes to Goleta, Santa Barbara’s LAFCO failed to prevent or correct the patchwork of jurisdictions that govern the Goleta Valley. Those governmental entities include the county (I.V. and Noleta), Goleta Water District, Goleta Sanitary District, Goleta West Sanitary District, Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD), Service Area 31, and the City of Goleta. (The City of Goleta covers one-third of the populated area of a geographic region commonly known as the Goleta Valley.)
When LAFCO approved the incorporation of what is now the City of Goleta, it might have more seriously considered other options that would not only have both decreased the number of political entities but would also have created a more financially viable incorporated city. According to the Independent Fiscal Analysis, at least one footprint, which would have included Isla Vista, would have given Goleta more significant projected surplus over 10 years ($3 million to $17 million) than the approved city limits. This option would have led to dissolution of Goleta West Sanitary District, Service Area 31, and possibly the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District. Most importantly it would have eliminated one of the three urban areas governed by the county.
The incorporation of one-third of the Goleta Valley without I.V. created a city with a marginally fiscally viable footprint. This may be why, contrary to the wishes of many of those who voted for cityhood for one-third of Goleta, we are seeing explosive growth in Goleta that hasn’t been seen in 40 years. At least one driving force is that this city of one-third of Goleta needs the money that added population and increased sales tax and property values bring.
Over the years the county’s stewardship of Isla Vista has left a lot to be desired. One glaring example of slow learning and misplaced resources is the millions wasted on the county and UCSB’s approach to regulating the social events of Floatopia and Halloween. We just saw the media saying isn’t it great there wasn’t a crowd of college students enjoying Halloween in Isla Vista. Well, yes and no. The powers that be had it half right, have a popular performance at the Thunderdome, and half wrong, don’t spend tens of thousands on mounted police and squad cars when there are several more reasonable options.
An Isla Vista CSD would be hard put not to be an improvement over the county and UCSB’s rather sporadic, desultory efforts at addressing the unique challenges and opportunities offered by Isla Vista. A CSD has the real possibility of being more creative. For instance, Community Service District board members might encourage multiple organized entertainment opportunities in addition to an anchor show at the Thunderdome. These options might include selling tickets to enter party venues, showing movies with a Halloween theme, having a play at the Magic Lantern, organizing a large dance/costume party at Robertson Gym, even holding lectures on the history of Halloween for those of a more serious bent.
They might have many community service officers out in the community and get rid of most of the police. If West Hollywood can celebrate Halloween with tens of thousands of celebrants and three arrests, it’s likely Isla Vista can do better than it historically has under county jurisdiction. Just as New Orleans makes a mint on Mardi Gras and most have a good time, it’s likely a CSD would figure out how to make partying and safety be compatible and work here as festivities in West Hollywood do.
Das Williams is to be congratulated for paving the way for an urban government for an urban area. One down and two to go for getting Santa Barbara County out of the business of governing an urban area.
Dr. David Bearman is a member of the Board of Directors of the Goleta West Sanitary District.