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County Supervisors Push Isla Vista Self-Governance LAFCO Application Forward

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has moved an Isla Vista self-governance plan forward by paying for and submitting an application to form a Community Services District in the unincorporated area.

Officials unanimously voted last week to pay the $6,100 in fees to submit an application to the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission, the agency that typically authorizes a new CSD.

This CSD formation is atypical, however, because it’s being formed under guidance of Assembly Bill 3, a bill the governor signed into law this fall.

The densely populated community of about 23,000 living on less than 1 square mile adjacent to UC Santa Barbara is currently under care of the county, and has seen three failed cityhood attempts — in 1972, 1975 and 1983.

Isla Vista’s CSD would differ from most districts because stakeholders are banking on implementing a utility user tax to financially support the CSD, imposing a tax for utility services consumed including electricity, gas, water, sewer, sanitation and cable television.

Since LAFCO can’t give a CSD the power to impose a utility tax, Assemblyman Das Williams took a different route, working with community stakeholders to craft the AB3 legislation.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents Isla Vista, was directly involved in that stakeholder process and she continues to keep tabs on weekly meetings Williams hosts for residents who want to be part of the CSD vision.

“As voting members of LAFCO, myself and Supervisor (Janet) Wolf will be involved with the LAFCO process, and Supervisor (Steve) Lavagnino is the alternative member from the BOS on LAFCO as well,” Farr told Noozhawk in an email.

LAFCO wasn’t entirely on board with the idea of an Isla Vista CSD earlier this year, but most of its concerns were with circumventing its authority.

AB3 stipulates the county must send a LAFCO application by Jan. 5, and county staff confirmed the application was sent last Friday.

LAFCO must complete a review of the application no more than 150 days after receiving it.

At the meeting last week, supervisors heard an update on the CSD process and an overview of what’s happened in Isla Vista in the past year, including county help with a number of improvements — adding lighting, sidewalks and fencing among them.

Right now, the county pays about $18 million annually for Isla Vista services, according to County Auditor-Controller Bob Geis.

Even with $5 million in revenue reimbursements and $5 million in Isla Vista taxes, that leaves an $8 million shortfall the county must make up.

Residents want a CSD to be able to implement a tenant mediation program, contract for additional police services, exercise the powers of a parking district and more.

AB3 asks to form a seven-member CSD board, with five elected at large from the district, one appointed by supervisors and one appointed by UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang.

“I introduced AB 3 a year ago because I, along with many Isla Vista residents, have grown tired of seeing tragedies take place there that highlight the unique and many needs of Isla Vista to increase public safety,” Williams said.

“With an 8-percent UUT, the district will be able to generate $512,000 annually that will go straight to Isla Vista. The issues facing Isla Vista must be tackled piece by piece, by building a foundation that allows residents to assess themselves for needed services, and a foundation that has the political legitimacy to truly advocate for Isla Vista.”

Although UCSB won’t be inside CSD boundaries, the university has pledged to give the district $200,000 annually from 2017 until 2024, at which point renewal would be considered.

Supervisors will place a CSD on the next countywide ballot for voter approval on Nov. 8, 2016, with operations contingent on two-thirds of Isla Vista voters passing the utility tax. 

If voters of the CSD don’t impose a utility user tax within the district by Jan. 1, 2023 — regardless of whether voters approved establishing the district — the CSD would be dissolved as of that date.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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