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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 9:39 pm | Fair 49º


Locals Form Isla Vista Downtown Business Association

Group gathers to deal with challenges, including public safety and steady clientele in the community

Locals have joined together to form the Isla Vista Business Association.
Locals have joined together to form the Isla Vista Business Association. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A new Isla Vista Downtown Business Association has formed to advocate for the interests of owners who have historically dealt with some pretty distinctive issues.

Parking in the unincorporated community of 23,000 living adjacent to UC Santa Barbara and Goleta is a nightmare, not to mention the fact that skateboarders and bicyclists always have the right-of-way.

Public safety is another concern, along with trying to establish regular, loyal customers in a community where so many residents are rotating college students.

The issues aren’t entirely new, but the effort came about earlier this year for two main reasons — advocacy and urgency related to a possible new utilities user tax, said Rodney Gould, general manager of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District.

The association of 65 business owners appointed Gould as president because of his experience as president of the Coast Village Business Association in Montecito before moving out to Isla Vista decades ago.

A utility user tax to financially support a new Community Service District is far from a done deal — the recently signed AB 3 stipulates voters must approve it next June — but Gould said business owners are concerned taxing for utility services consumed would disproportionately hurt them, possibly adding 8 percent to their electricity bills.

“They all have a lot of refrigeration,” he said, noting many of them own restaurants or grocery stores.

The first time most residents noticed the Isla Vista Downtown Business Association name was last weekend for the Meet Your Neighbors Day event, where 25 businesses offered special discounts as part of the community-wide event and others hosted artists for an art walk.

“I think it was a really good first step,” Gould said. “The other idea was to create joint marketing — to market Isla Vista as a destination to come and shop and eat to the greater community. It’s slow going.”

Because so many of the 90 or so businesses in Isla Vista are owner-operated, it’s difficult for the association to get the word out.

But probably not as hard as it is to coordinate a time for monthly meetings.

“All these businesses in Isla Vista are very small businesses, oftentimes run directly by the owner,” said Jay Freeman, a UCSB graduate with a tech consulting business in Isla Vista called Saurik IT.

Freeman, vice president of the group, said no one has declined being on the association’s membership list — a good sign for the first business association of its kind, at least in recent memory. They're also still working on creating a website.

Business owners confront many of the same issues, including a lull during summertime when many college students move back home and an interest in what future development UCSB has for the area in its Long Range Development Plan.

Freeman said the group made up of Isla Vista Market, Dejavu restaurant and more also face surprising negative impacts because of the crackdown on visitors, especially for larger party-related events like Halloween and Deltopia.

“Businesses have been reliant upon major spikes in activities,” he said, noting some entity should take control to sponsor the events.

“There are months that go by where you’re not doing anything. It’s difficult to build a longstanding customer base because your customers leave.”

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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