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LAFCO Voices Concerns About Isla Vista Governance Bill

Concerned that a proposed state bill in favor of Isla Vista self-governance might skirt proper planning processes, Santa Barbara County’s Local Agency Formation Commission will send a list of troubling questions to its author.

Assemblyman Das Williams was not present Thursday during a special LAFCO meeting in Santa Barbara, where a majority of commissioners voted to approve a “letter of concern” regarding his proposed legislation.

Last December, Williams introduced Assembly Bill 3 to establish an Isla Vista Community Services District — the terms of which were still up for interpretation.

The densely populated community of about 23,000 living on less than one 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.

Williams, who grew up in Isla Vista, proposed the CSD after he began meeting with several community groups following the Deltopia riot last April and a mass shooting and stabbing rampage last May.

Skeptical LAFCO commissioners, who didn’t hear about the proposed CSD until after the bill was introduced, compiled a list of 11 serious reservations — chief among them that the bill would circumvent the commission itself.

According to state law, LAFCO has jurisdiction over the formation of a CSD.

“It appears from statements made in public forums that the intent of AB 3 may be to bypass the LAFCO formation process, which is of great concern to CALAFCO as well as Santa Barbara LAFCO,” the commission wrote in the letter. “If the LAFCO process is bypassed, there would be no LAFCO application to begin the formation process, i.e. petition signed by 25 percent of the registered voters or resolution of affected agency. This limits public input into the formation process.”

LAFCO members were worried because AB3 doesn’t list the services a CSD would provide, how those services would be paid for, how (and how many) CSD board members would be chosen, or what role UCSB, Santa Barbara City College or the county would have in the process.

Twenty-seven public speakers were split on whether to support the letter.

They urged the LAFCO board to send a constructive letter or to wait to see what details Williams comes up with.

Williams penned a letter in response to LAFCO’s concerns earlier this week, countering that the public will have plenty of time to offer input.

AB3 was purposely written in a vague matter with “intent language” so details could be filled in later — meaning the Legislature can’t vote on it, he wrote.

He suggested LAFCO board members join the community conversation to address questions instead of signing a letter, seemingly in opposition.

“Many of the questions that you list in your letter are questions that I have as well,” he said in the letter. “We have been discussing these questions in weekly community meetings my office organizes in I.V., which began on Dec. 4, 2014.”

UCSB Associated Students President Ali Guthy said she feared the letter would hinder the work already done in community workshops.

“I don’t really recall seeing any of you at them,” Guthy said.

LAFCO members agreed they were in favor of self-governance, but they didn’t all consider the letter one of opposition.

Commission member Roger Aceves, a Goleta city councilman, said he didn’t want LAFCO to be bypassed by a bill that has yet to add specifics.

Commission member Janet Wolf, Second District county supervisor, and LAFCO chair Doreen Farr, Third District county supervisor, both voted against sending the letter because they said it made LAFCO seem like an impediment instead of part of the solution.

“I don’t support the letter,” said Farr, whose district includes Isla Vista. “Parts are inaccurate. I think it’s premature. We don’t know that LAFCO would be bypassed.”

The other five commissioners — minus Santa Maria City Councilman Bob Orach, who was absent for the vote — opted to send the letter, hashing out language revisions that would allow LAFCO a larger part in the bill-development process.

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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