Who should govern Isla Vista?

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On November 8th, voters in Isla Vista, an unincorporated community adjacent to UCSB, will decide whether or not to govern themselves.

Measure E would create a limited form of government called a community services district (CSD). Supporters say this would help the small, dense college town address a number of long-standing needs unique to IV. But others don’t want to pay for it.

“IV has notoriously always been this densely populated, unincorporated place in the county,” said reporter Kelsey Brugger, who’s been writing about self governance in IV for the Santa Barbara Independent. “In the 1970s and 80s there were attempts to create cityhood in Isla Vista, but those attempts all failed.”

Brugger spoke with KCRW’s Jonathan Bastian.

KCRW: Why a push for self governance now?

Brugger: This came out of 2014, which was a rough year for Isla Vista. There was the Deltopia riots, a gang rape and the mass murder. The UCSB Board of Trustees studied Isla Vista, came out with a report, and one of the things they listed to remedy the place was the establishment of a community services district (CSD).

If Measure E passes, what would this CSD look like?

Kind of like a watered down city hall. You’d have graffiti abatement, tenant mediation services, augmented police officers, better lighting and sidewalks; a lot of the nuts and bolts of local government.

A community services district would fix sidewalks and clean graffiti. (Keon Zemoudeh)
A community services district would fix sidewalks and clean graffiti. (Keon Zemoudeh)

Who would run the CSD?

It would be overseen by a seven member board. Five members would be elected, which is also on the ballot this November. Two members would be appointed, one by the UCSB chancellor and one by the third district supervisor.

Voters will also be voting on Measure F, which is a crucial part of this whole story. What’s that?

It’s an 8 percent utility users tax that would fund the CSD. Residents would be paying for that if this passes. Proponents say that translates to $5 to $10 per month on water, trash, and electricity bills. Landlords are certainly not happy about it and have funded a campaign against the tax. They say it’s just going to mean higher rents for residents.

Many IV residents support Measures E and F, but most landlords don’t want to pay for a CSD. (Keon Zemoudeh)

What happens if Measure E passes but not Measure F?

The CSD would essentially still be formed, but without any money, so it’s questionable what they’d be able to accomplish. Some anti-tax folks are saying that if Measure E does pass on its own, it’d still be able to represent the citizens in a very advisory capacity.

A longboarder heads down Embarcadero del Norte, a main thoroughfare in this unincorporated community. (Keon Zemoudeh)

Do you think, from the reporting you’ve done, that this has the potential to remedy the problems in IV?

It depends on who you talk to. Proponents say this can be a voice for this “not city” that is a city, essentially. But, skeptics think Isla Vista is always going to be a place of transient students who come in for four years and then skip town and leave the long term residents with the bill. So, there’s definitely some contention there.

Find all our election coverage at kcrw.com/elections.