A new era is emerging in Isla Vista. Largely as a result of the leadership of Das Williams, Assembly Bill 3 created the Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD). Though the utility users tax necessary to fund the new district sufficiently did not receive two-thirds of the vote on November’s ballot, the overwhelming approval of the district itself is a milestone in the seaside community’s history. Those elected to the new IVCSD board are Ethan Bertrand, Natalie Jordan, Jay Freeman, Spencer Brandt, and Father Jon Hedges. Also crucial in establishing the IVCSD is Duncan Mellichamp, who chaired the UC Santa Barbara Foundation study recommending the service district’s creation through the State Legislature.
The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) remains the seaside community’s oldest and most integral elected civic body. At its most recent meeting, the IVRPD voted to place a special tax on a special May, mail-in election that will, at long last, provide a stable and secure long-term source of capital and infrastructure funding on about $250,000 for Isla Vista’s parks. Long-time Boardmember Pegeen Soutar played a crucial role in the development of this proposal, in which she was supported by fellow boardmembers Jacob Lebell, Paola Dela Cruz, Carlos Lopez, and Daniel Torres.
A further important development in Isla Vista is the fund-raising campaign for the Isla Vista Community Center, which will be located at the top of the loop on Embarcadero Del Mar, at the site of the original Bank of America. The Isla Vista Community Development Corporation, under the leadership of Cameron Schunk, is spearheading an initial $500,000 fund-raising campaign in the first six months of 2017 to augment funds already secured from the County of Santa Barbara.
As it happens, this writer has among the longest continuous views of Isla Vista, as I first lived on Sabado Tarde and Del Playa between 1961 and 1963. Its natural beauty, particularly its views of the ocean, impressed me even then. To preserve Isla Vista’s beauty, it is vital that among the powers of the IVCSD that should be implemented immediately is to establish an area planning council to prevent further high-rise development in the commercial district. In addition, it is vital that a new Isla Vista Master Plan completely alter existing, devastating plans that would increase density in I.V. by almost one-third. Consideration should also be given to making the transportation grid more bike-friendly and increasing green and open space on the top of loop by removing parking lots.
Others who merit mention in any discussion of the new day dawning in Isla Vista are Jonathan Abboud, the first Isla Vista trustee on the board for Santa Barbara City College; George Thurlow, UCSB’s emissary to Isla Vista; and UCSB chancellor Henry Yang, whose commitment to I.V.’s improvement is unwavering. Also, too ubiquitous not to mention is Gabriel Pragin, recent candidate for the IVCSD board and on almost every committee in the community. There can be little question that great things are happening in Isla Vista. The time is near and right for Isla Vista to become the multifaceted and diverse community it has always had the potential of becoming. As incoming supervisor Williams commented in an interview during the Assembly Bill 3 process: “Isla Vista is really one of a kind. There’s no other community like it.”
Lanny Ebenstein is Resource Development Chair for the Isla Vista Community Development Corporation.