Creating a consensus among neglected college students, families, property owners, undocumented residents and other Isla Vista stakeholders won’t be easy — maybe even impossible — but those groups got together Monday to give it a try anyway.
Whether the unincorporated area near UC Santa Barbara’s campus could start a neighborhood association or a community services district was at the center of discussion during the two-hour Isla Vista town hall meeting hosted by the UCSB Associated Students.
How quickly action should be taken was also up for debate in light of the recent escalation in violence, which last school year included gang rape, Deltopia rioting and the May 23 shooting and stabbing rampage that claimed the lives of seven IV residents — six of whom were UCSB students.
A group of nearly 100 locals crowded into the Santa Barbara Hillel building in the heart of IV to start the student-facilitated dialogue.
The task appeared more difficult as Beatrice Contreras, external vice president of local affairs for UCSB’s AS, presented past efforts toward self-governance.
Isla Vista has logged three failed attempts to obtain city hood, she said, the most recent of which was in 1984. All three tries were backed by the Isla Vista Community Council, which was founded by locals in 1970 but has since disbanded due to lack of funding.
In response to past civil unrest, independent reports suggested UCSB take a more active role in IV governance, and Contreras said it has.
But perhaps an Isla Vista Association, advisory council, area planning commission, city hood or community services district were other viable options, she offered.
Attendees considered governing bodies and safety issues in small groups, identifying a need for more services for local children, the homeless, mentally ill, undocumented residents and more rent and quality control.
“No matter what option we choose for self governance, the county and the state will still have power over us,” said a representative of the Isla Vista coalition for violence prevention. “I think that’s important to keep in mind as well.”
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents the IV area and was in the speaker's small group, reminded locals of already available resources. Other elected officials joined in the discussion, including Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett and city council members from each city.
Some wondered what new organizations could provide beyond existing structure. A UCSB faculty member called for a major culture foundation shift so the transient student population takes more responsibility.
Establishing a community council or space and limiting drinking and outside visitors were other suggestions, along with starting an improvement district — a governing body property owners and residents would fund through taxes.
“It’s not in any of those groups’ interest for things to get worse,” local Jeff Walsh said. “We don’t all have the same goals, and we need to be honest about that.”
More adults were in attendance than students, since it is summer session, but organizers said a second meeting is set for Oct. 7.
The meeting’s one consensus was lamenting that discussion spurs only when IV is in crisis.
Hillel director Rabbi Evan Goodman said his organization would continue to support Isla Vista in whatever direction stakeholders choose, although any change would require buy-in from a broad cross section of the diverse community.