The first board of Isla Vista's Community Services District — Ethan Bertrand (left), Spencer Brandt, Jay Freeman, Bob Geis, Father Jon Hedges, Natalie Jordan, and George Thurlow — is sworn in by 1st District Supervisor Das Williams, who shepherded the enacting legislation while assemblymember.
Samantha Bean

The Isla Vista Community Services District held its historic first meeting Tuesday night, an expectedly disheveled yet certainly impassioned event that began at 6 p.m. and ended just 15 minutes shy of midnight.

Public turnout was far beyond anyone’s anticipation, with people crammed in the margins of the room at the start of the meeting, eager and excited to witness the district’s commencement. “I only made 20 copies of my committee proposal,” one board member laughed – that wouldn’t even cover half the occupants. People gradually filtered out with the passing of each hour, and few dedicated individuals remained until adjournment – though their demeanors shifted from poised and professional to slouching in their chairs.

The district established a self-governing body in Isla Vista, which the unincorporated community has lacked for decades. The district grew out of special legislation Das Williams, then the Assemblyman, sponsored two years ago.

Director Jon Hedges described Isla Vista as an “orphaned child that has now grown up.” He expressed his sincere excitement for the creation of this district, which was matched by every other director and many members of the public.

On Tuesday night, a board of seven directors was sworn in by Williams, now the 1st District supervisor and longtime advocate for Isla Vista. The board consisted of five elected directors — Ethan Bertrand, Spencer Brandt, Jay Freeman, Jon Hedges, and Natalie Jordan — as well as George Thurlow, UCSB’s assistant vice chancellor, who was appointed by Chancellor Henry Yang, and Robert Geis, the county’s former auditor-controller, who was appointed by the Board of Supervisors.

Bertrand was elected president of the Board, with Jordan as vice president of the Board and Brandt as secretary.

The “elephant in the room,” as Brandt described it, was the issue of funding. Though the formation of the CSD was approved by Isla Vista voters last November, a Utility User Tax, which needed two-thirds of the vote, was not. While discussing future funding options for the district was a hopeful objective on Tuesday’s agenda, the topic was skipped over. The board planned to revisit the subject at the next meeting.

The board also voted to form three advisory committees within the district, on which directors were elected to serve — The Formation Committee, served by Thurlow, Geis and Brandt, will advise the board on legal, administrative and financial issues. Bertrand, Jordan, and Thurlow head the Internship Committee. The Policy Committee consists of Bertrand, Freeman and Brandt.

Among these committees, the board discussed creating a fourth committee that deals with community outreach and involvement, which will be revisited at the district’s following meeting.

These technical considerations were met with powerful public comments. Among these, an outspoken rape victim expressed her hope for this board to help “protect the community” from further cases like hers, and advocates called for representation of Latino and transgender communities as well as protection of undocumented people within Isla Vista.

Also at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 21, the board will discuss several more agenda items they were unable to attend to tonight due to time, including presentation of their 90-day action plan, creation of an online or social media presence, and establishment of district contact information.

CSD Meetings are set to occur the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month, at 6 p.m. in the Community Room at 970 Embarcadero Del Mar.


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