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After Decades of Effort, Isla Vista Votes for Self-Governance

While the community services district passed easily, the utility-user tax to fund it was falling just below the requisite threshold

Isla Vista elected to enact a community services district Tuesday night, with semi-official results showing 87.5 percent of residents voting in favor of the limited form of self-governance.

The crucial utility-user tax to fund the CSD, however, drew 62.5 percent of the vote, just short of the two-thirds needed to pass.

Unless I.V. passes the tax before Jan. 1, 2023, the CSD, which required a simple majority to pass, will be dissolved.

This year’s election is the closest the half-square-mile community west of the UC Santa Barbara campus has come to achieving self-governance after decades of effort.

Earning seats on the CSD’s governing board were UCSB student Spencer Brandt, software developer Jay Freeman, Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District director Ethan Bertrand, UCSB student Natalie Jordan and local pastor Jon-Stephen Hedges.

Brandt and Freeman, the latter of whom ran an unsuccessful campaign earlier this year for the Third District spot on the Board of Supervisors, ran unopposed for their seats, as did Bertrand after UCSB student Joel Ruiz suspended his campaign after the filing deadline.

UCSB students Andrew Gabriel Pragin and Michael Kile also ran for board seats.

A CSD, on the ballot as Measure E, is not incorporation, but its governing board is authorized to provide and fund a variety of services that, for Isla Vista, traditionally have been taken care of by the county.

In April, the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission approved eight initial services the district may provide, although the CSD’s board must apply to the county again to make changes to county-owned land, or enact a municipal advisory council or planning commission.

The CSD will have the power to finance the operations of a municipal advisory council; create a landlord-tenant mediation program; finance operations of an area planning commission; exercise the powers of a parking district; contract with the county or UC Regents or both for additional police services; acquire and maintain community facilities; acquire, construct and maintain infrastructure; and remove graffiti.

The utility-user tax, for which low-income households and UCSB would have been exempt, would have applied to services that include electricity, gas, water, and sewage/trash, and would have generated an estimated $512,000 a year.

The tax appeared on Isla Vistans’ ballots as Measure F.

UCSB had pledged an additional $200,000 every year from 2017 to 2024, at which point renewal would be considered.

Governing the CSD is a seven-member board of directors, five of whom are elected by Isla Vista voters, one appointed by the Board of Supervisors, and one by UCSB’s chancellor.

Four of those five positions, along with the two appointed ones, have four-year terms, while the other elected position has a two-year term.

For this first election, however, two of those four four-year terms are truncated to two-year terms.

Brandt and Freeman won the two permanent four-years seats, and Bertrand the permanent two-year seat.

The rest of the field campaigned for the two temporary two-year seats.

Isla Vista’s movement for greater autonomy stretches back decades and includes a few failed cityhood attempts.

Fresh life was breathed into the dream in late 2014, when Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, introduced Assembly Bill 3, which proposed a CSD for Isla Vista.

The bill was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015.

Leading the pro-Measure E and F campaign was a coalition of students and Isla Vistans backed by William’s office.

Opposing the measures — the tax in particular — were I.V. landlords, who argued it would translate to higher rents.

The CSD will officially form on March 1.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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