Isla Vista residents getting chance at self-governance

MARISSA WHISMAN, Associate Editor

For the first time in decades, Isla Vista residents will have a much bigger say in the governance of their town.

Created with heavy input from Isla Vista residents, a new bill is set to change the life of students living there and give residents more control over their community.

Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 3 today, establishing a Community Services District in Isla Vista, a community of about 23,000 mostly City College and UCSB students.

AB3 was presented by State Assemblymember Das Williams after a report from a UCSB trustee committee and months of community meetings last year. These meetings were in response to multiple violent sexual assaults, riots, and a tragic mass shooting. The bill includes several changes to help improve certain problems residents in Isla Vista face.

“I really think Isla Vista is a wonderful place, people who talk bad about it don’t really understand it,” said former Isla Vista resident, Williams. “But it has problems. It’s not a very safe place, particularly for young women.”

The three general issues the bill addresses is public safety, housing and the idea of self-governance.

City College student senator Ethan Bertrand was involved with the creation of the bill as well.  He is the Isla Vista Community Representative and a current Isla Vista resident.

“Isla Vista is not a one size fits all community,” Bertrand said. “There are so many things that are amazing and a small amount of things that are not so amazing.”

Bertrand feels there’s no one solution to solve the problems Isla Vista faces and that it will take more creative approaches to work around different issues.

The issues will be addressed through possible additions and changes like an increase of police presence, visitor enforcement through the control of parking and the creation of a tenant-mediation program.

The tenant mediation program was a big concern brought up by the community because of the disconnect between landlords and residents. The demand for housing is so big in Isla Vista that landlords have no problem replacing a tenant, and this is where the relationship is buried.

The bill also requires Santa Barbara County to send an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission. This would get the district on the Nov. 2016 ballot and create a Community Services District.

If the bill was presented on the ballot, it would be the first time in 45 years that residents of Isla Vista will have the opportunity to vote on the issues immediately affecting them. As of right now, the county makes all the decisions regarding the district, besides matters of parks which is handled by the Parks and Recreation Board.

“The most important part of this [bill] is to give residents of Isla Vista the opportunity to represent their community,” Bertrand said. “AB3 puts power in the hands of the residents of Isla Vista.”

If voted on by residents, it would allow additional funding with the aim of an overall safer community with the addition of streetlights, sidewalks and tenant programs. Funding will come from multiple sources, including an annual contribution of $200,000 from UCSB until 2024.

“It’s hard seeing Isla Vista being a safer place without the resources necessary to do public safety and the resources necessary to provide a unique voice that is elected,” Williams said.

However, the bill was not animously favored by members of the committee as well as long time residents of Isla Vista. Two year resident Jeff Lawson says he’s seen these proposed projects and they don’t always work out.

“It sounds like a lot of traffic. With the construction of sidewalks and changes in parking to regulate visitors, it all just seems like one big mess for residents,” Lawson said. “Also, we definitely have enough police presence.”

Not long ago the City College Board of Trustees voted against supporting the bill as well.

The idea of a Community Services District and ideas to build a stronger community is discussed at AB3 community meetings. These meetings are held every Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the conference room of the IV Clinic Building, located at 970 Embarcadero Del Mar.