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LAFCO Moves Isla Vista Community Services District Toward Ballot

Isla Vista residents on Thursday passed the final hurdle to get to vote on whether they want to form a Community Services District governing the unincorporated area adjacent to UC Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission pushed along two resolutions — on 6-1 and 7-0 votes, respectively — to allow a vote on the district formation, on a utility-user tax to fund the CSD, and to choose CSD board members.

The county Board of Supervisors will place the decisions on the November ballot, nearly a year after Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 3 into law.

The law, proposed in late 2014 by Assemblyman Das Williams, allows the densely populated community adjacent to UC Santa Barbara a chance to govern itself.

LAFCO has shot down three previous attempts by Isla Vista residents to obtain cityhood — 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 an assessment for utility services consumed, including electricity, gas, water, sewer, sanitation and cable television.

If the district is approved by voters — along with the tax — the CSD would become operational in March 2017.

With this week’s vote, the agency that typically authorizes a new CSD approved an 8-percent taxation rate that must be approved by two-thirds of voters.

“I want to give my deepest thanks to the supporters of Isla Vista,” Williams said in a statement. “They have been driving this process from the start, and I am honored to have been able to author legislation that empowers a community I care so deeply about.

"I’d also like to thank every SB LAFCO commissioner for their support, guidance, and thoughtful criticisms. I am glad to say that they helped us make history today.”

As part of the law, LAFCO was required to conduct an analysis of the CSD to determine what services could be funded and how the district would be set up.

A county Auditor-Controller’s Office report shows the county provides $18 million for services annually in Isla Vista, with an $8 million annual shortfall of locally generated taxes paid by the county.

An 8-percent utility-user tax could generate up to $512,000 annually, with an exemption for low-income households and for UCSB.

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.

The bill creates a CSD board of five members to be elected and two members to be appointed — one by the County Board of Supervisors and one by the chancellor of UCSB.

LAFCO approved eight initial services for the CSD, although the board of directors must apply to the agency again in order to begin authorizing funding.

The CSD would have the power to finance the operations of municipal advisory councils; create a 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 sidewalks, lighting, etc.; and abate graffiti.

According to conditions of approval, LAFCO would conduct a municipal service review after one year to assess the district and to determine how well it is providing services.

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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