Tropicana Gardens is one of three student-housing complexes that UCSB has acquired in nearby Isla Vista. The other properties are Tropicana Del Norte and the Tropicana Villas. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

UC Santa Barbara has acquired the Tropicana student-housing portfolio in nearby Isla Vista, paying $156 million for three apartment complexes more than 1,000 students call home.

The university announced its purchase of the properties known as Tropicana Gardens, Tropicana Del Norte and the Tropicana Villas on Tuesday as part of its ongoing investment in the unincorporated community adjacent to UCSB.

The complexes totaling 200,000 square feet already house a large number of UCSB students, the university said.

At least two of the complexes — Tropicana Gardens at 6585 El Colegio Road and Tropicana Villas at 811 Camino Pescadero — also market extensively to Santa Barbara City College students.

Tropicana Del Norte at 6525 El Colegio is billed as a residence hall catering to UCSB freshmen, transfer, international and continuing students.

The long-term goal would be to incorporate university academic and social programming into the properties that can house approximately 1,050 students.

SBCC students will live in the properties this coming academic year, but the university wasn’t sure if that would continue.

UCSB will spend the year planning the transition to university management and will address eligibility for residence during the transition period, according to university spokesman George Foulsham.

“This was a unique opportunity for the university to make a significant impact and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the community,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications John Longbrake said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the county, local officials, students and residents to continue to strengthen the connections between the campus and Isla Vista.” 

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang vowed last year to take a larger role in Isla Vista, a community of 23,000 living on less than a square mile and sandwiched between Goleta, the university and the ocean.

The university paid $92 million for Tropicana Gardens and $64 million combined for the other two complexes, according to the Santa Barbara County Assessor’s Office.

The previous owner paid more than $1.2 million in property taxes last year. Universities do not have to pay the county property taxes, however.

The university already owns the El Dorado apartments at 6667 El Colegio Road — housing 140 third- and fourth-year students — and the Westgate apartments at 6543 El Colegio Road, serving 58 third- and fourth-year students.

This purchase from Chicago-based Blue Vista Capital Management LLC was meant to demonstrate the university’s commitment to improving the quality of life in Isla Vista — part of a portion of the millions UCSB has spent on the community in recent years.

Within the past year, UCSB has created a $2 million fund to support services and infrastructure improvement projects in Isla Vista, including better street lighting, permanent fencing along the bluffs and sidewalk installations.

That’s in addition to public safety support the university negotiated in its Long Range Development Plan, which was created to accommodate academic program changes and the influx of 5,000 students UCSB is projected to see through 2025. That’s why the university is building more housing of its own.

No state funds went toward the most recent purchase.

Tropicana Gardens is a privately owned residence hall catering to SBCC students, with 109 furnished suites, on-site dining, light housekeeping and on-site resident assistants.

Tropicana Villas is an apartment complex for UCSB and SBCC upperclassmen, where students live in two-bedroom, two-bathroom furnished apartments.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at gpotthoff@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with