January 28, 2023
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Editorial: Williams bill a small step in sorting out Isla Vista


As we close in on the six month anniversary since the terrible shootings in Isla Vista, there are increased signs that community leaders are taking seriously the legacy issues of Isla Vista governance.

A recent report from the board of trustees at the UC Santa Barbara Foundation took some steps toward endorsing self-governance for the area around campus. Now, Assemblymember Das Williams, a Carpinteria Democrat, has introduced a bill to create a formal Isla Vista Community Services District within Santa Barbara County.

Clearly no one has a simple answer to Isla Vista governance and in introducing the bill, Williams said his measure, AB 3, would serve as “a vehicle to initiate more dialogue” among stakeholders to create a local government structure.

Isla Vista, as Williams points out, is a one-square-mile area with 20,000 residents and the most heavily urbanized area within California that is not part of a city.

Clearly creating a special district within the county would allow Isla Vista to issue revenue bonds, create a taxing structure and fund needed infrastructure and public safety improvements.

This is the third or fourth time since the 1970s that efforts by local and state officials have attempted to create a new governance structure for Isla Vista.

But this time, the political powers seem to be at least temporarily united behind the idea of a new governance structure.

“We have seen the same reoccurring issues time and time again since the early 1970s,” wrote Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr in a release that accompanied the Williams announcement. “It is because of this that I am supportive of a new approach.”

At this moment it is not fully clear whether Gov. Jerry Brown will support legislation that creates an Isla Vista special taxing district and his fight over UC funding with system President Janet Napolitano could cloud the path forward. But there are more stakeholders interested in a long term fix for Isla Vista than at any time in recent years.

Kudos to Williams, UCSB and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for trying to restart the conversation on Isla Vista governance.  Perhaps out of the terrible tragedy of May 23 can come a more permanent way to improve the quality of life in Isla Vista.