Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 12:18 pm | Fair 74º


Lanny Ebenstein: California Assembly Vote Points to New Day in Isla Vista

The 6-1 vote of the California State Assembly Committee on Local Government in favor of Assembly Bill 3, authored by Assemblyman Das Williams that would authorize creation of a Community Services District in Isla Vista, was a great step forward in this direction. There were two abstentions.

Isla Vista has long suffered from a lack of local representation and self-determination. Assembly Bill 3 would create a Community Services District that, as currently drawn, would include the campus of UCSB in addition to Isla Vista proper, which is now entirely encircled by the university. There would be seven members on the governing board of the Isla Vista Community Services District, including representatives appointed by the chancellor of UCSB and the County of Santa Barbara.

Proponents at the hearing Tuesday included Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr and UCSB Associated Students External Vice President Cameron Schunk. Other proponents who appeared before the committee included Santa Barbara City College Trustee Jonathan Abboud (though not on behalf of SBCC) and a number of UCSB students.

Opponents included 33-year Isla Vista resident and UCSB graduate Pegeen Soutar, who is also a member of the board of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District (though the IVRPD has not taken a position on the community services district) and Paul Hood, executive director of the Santa Barbara County LAFCO.

It is far past time for improved local government in Isla Vista. The tragedies of recent years should not be allowed to happen again. The proposed community services district would be able to spend money on improved street lighting and sidewalks, a tenant mediation program, an area planning commission, a parking district, and community buildings and services.

From having been involved with Isla Vista for many years (my family first moved there in 1961), I have not seen as much enthusiasm and willingness to become involved as now exists in Isla Vista for many years. It is time to harness this energy and create a community services district.

Key milestones in the process ahead include:

» June 5, last day to pass the bill in the Assembly

» July 17, last day to get the bill out of the Senate policy committee

» Sept. 11, last day to pass the bill out of the Legislature

It will be vital to secure final funding for a fiscal feasibility study of the Isla Vista Community Services District. Several of the speakers at the hearing emphasized the importance of a feasibility study, including opponents.

The Santa Barbara City College Student Senate will vote on a contribution to the study in the coming days. About $15,000 to $25,000 remains to be raised to fund the full study. In order for the study to be available for the final consideration of a bill when the state Legislature returns from its summer recess in mid-August, the study must proceed at once. The Fund for Santa Barbara is coordinating the development and funding of a study.

In his comments to the committee, Assemblyman Williams emphasized the "emergency nature of the problem in Isla Vista." Now is the time to authorize a Community Services District through the state Legislature, as was recommended by the UCSB Foundation Trustees' Report on Isla Vista Strategies last year.

Isla Vista is a unique community with unique issues. It is an urban area, and a proposed utility user tax would provide urban services there. George Thurlow, Chancellor Henry Yang's special assistant on Isla Vista, attended the hearing on behalf of UCSB, as did Kirsten Zimmer Deshler, director of governmental relations at UCSB. The role of UCSB in and with Isla Vista will continue to be crucial.

— Lanny Ebenstein is a local resident and graduate of UCSB. 

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