Isla Vista community leaders and elected officials recently celebrated Santa Barbara County’s retention of two buildings, one of which is designated to be Isla Vista’s future community center. The two buildings are located at Embarcadero del Mar and Trigo Road.

The county also retained a solar-powered parking lot located along Embarcadero del Mar.

Located in one of the two buildings is the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic, which sees about 1,110 low-income patients each month and is owned by the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

The other building, commonly referred to as the church building as the former home of St. Athanasius Orthodox Church, has been vacant since the spring of 2012 and will be the site of Isla Vista’s future community center.

Community leaders who were actively involved in saving the two buildings celebrated with refreshments, live music and a variety of guest speakers.

“The two things a community needs are a clinic and a community center,” Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf told the guests.

David Bearman, an active proponent for free community clinics, emceed the event, and Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr was the first to speak.

“This was a tremendous community effort because everybody who lives in Isla Vista, used to live in Isla Vista, cares about Isla Vista, does business in Isla Vista all came together in a way that I’ve never seen before,” she said.

Guadalupe Velazquez, an Isla Vista resident and mother of five children, participated in all the community hearings and briefly spoke (in Spanish) to attendees. Her children cheered from the crowd. 

Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, sent a letter to the California Department of Finance in support of the transfer of the property to the county.

“I grew up in Isla Vista, and I am proud to represent this unique community in the Assembly,” he said.

Williams asserted that the nonstudent residents of Isla Vista would greatly benefit from a community center.

“Isla Vista is a community of nearly 20,000 residents, about half of whom are students,” he said. “The remaining nonstudent residents are challenged with high unemployment rates and the other stresses of poverty.

“(These) properties are vital to this vulnerable community’s health and well-being.”

Other speakers included Alex Moore, vice president of the UC Santa Barbara Associated Students, and Dr. Charles Fenzi, medical director of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

Noozhawk intern Allyson Werner can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.