Landlords Fund Opposition to Proposed Isla Vista Tax

But Supporters Raise More Than Detractors for Measure F

A group funded by landlords and real estate interests, Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes, with attorney Chuck Eckert (pictured) as its treasurer, opposes Measure F, saying its utility tax will be reflected in higher rents.
Paul Wellman (file)

Campaign finance reports show that supporters of Measure F, the ballot initiative to impose an 8 percent utility users tax on Isla Vista residents, have out-fundraised their opponents by more than two to one. The committee in support of the measure, Das Williams for Isla Vista Self Governance 2016 Ballot Measure, reported raising more than $105,000, while the opponents, Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes, funded entirely by landlords, reported raising nearly $39,000.

Das Williams

The measures grew out of AB 3, the legislation sponsored by Williams, an assemblymember just elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Should it pass, Measure F, accompanied by Measure E, which would also need to pass, would establish a Community Services District in the unincorporated area of Isla Vista and provide it with a half-million dollars to operate. The concept grew out of legwork by students studying Isla Vista’s history of impermanent governing bodies failing to bring a voice to the predominately college town. And it was put into action by Williams’s staff — namely his right-hand woman, Darcel Elliott — who held weekly meetings over the last two years. Supporters argue the utility tax is egalitarian because property owners and renters alike would pay the estimated $5 to $10 monthly fee.

Darcel Elliott
Paul Wellman / file photo

But opponents charge any new tax will be recouped in the already steep rental prices. But so far, just landlords or people associated with property management companies have sponsored the campaign against Measure F. Notably, 29 individuals connected to Wolfe & Associates Property Services contributed $10,290. All but one of the checks, ranging from $120 to $1,080, were received on the same day, August 30. Twelve checks from individuals associated with Meridian Group were also received that day.

Asked about this, Chuck Eckert, attorney, property owner, and treasurer for Isla Vistans Against Higher Taxes, said, “One can logically assume [property management companies] asked for the contributions.” But he added that any amount “would be personally up to them.” He noted property owners in the past have contributed to Isla Vista issues such as graffiti abatement.

Eckert explained that landlords opposed the utility users tax but not the Community Service District itself. Williams failed to include any provisions they specifically asked for at the start, said Eckert, expressing frustration, for instance, that property owners could not serve on the district board if they did not live in Isla Vista, among other things.

Should the district be approved without the funding it is questionable how effective it could be.

With just a month until the November 8 election, the support committee, which is funded by nearly 80 percent with money transferred from Williams’s supervisorial campaign coffers, has $62,587 left to spend. The opponents have $27,878 left.


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