April 3, 2024
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New vision for Isla Vista needs political courage


We went to Goleta’s State of the City luncheon on May 14 and discovered a city in denial.
That’s partly because a decade after cityhood, Goleta has not found a winning formula for revitalizing its Old Town shopping district. New food shops and a sprinkling of sidewalk improvements, heavily touted at the event, simply will not get the job done.

Meanwhile the city is heavily dependent on new hotels for revenue, with TOT taxes now accounting for 34 percent of the city’s take.

But Goleta is not the only one in denial. Santa Barbara County has yet to confront the full-blown impact of last Memorial Day’s tragic rampage in Isla Vista.

One year after the tragedy, both the county and Goleta — a major stakeholder —  remain bitterly divided about what’s required to secure the long-term future of this important technology hub for the region and the state.

On May 20, both the Goleta City Council and Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors cast votes that were narrowly in favor of creating a special tax district to secure additional services for Isla Vista.

A bill that would put the creation of such a district before voters is on the floor of the California Legislature thanks to the efforts of Assembly member Das Williams.  We will know in early June if it passes. Some UC Santa Barbara trustees informally support such a district.

But the bigger problem is that to date only Chancellor Henry Yang and UCSB have stepped up with a larger vision of what needs to be done for Isla Vista and the greater community. New rules for guests, new barriers on the IV bluffs and a host of other improvements have made Isla Vista safer and more secure.
But to truly create a new vision for IV requires political courage and forward thinking, two things that are really missing at the county and within the city of Goleta.

Thanks to the innovation coming forth from UCSB, the Greater Goleta Valley and Isla Vista are emerging as a technology center that deserves a vastly better built environment, large capital expenditures and a much bigger tax base from which to fund civic improvements and enhanced public safety.

That should be the legacy of Isla Vista. Instead we get self-congratulatory palaver over sidewalk improvements in Old Town and an extremely modest proposal to improve public safety funding that may or may not become a reality.

Seventy-five years ago, the Sisters of Saint Francis embarked on a journey to build the largest health care facility between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo in Santa Maria.

On May 20, 1940 they founded the Marian Medical Center in North Santa Barbara County. Since then the hospital has flourished and built a reputation of serving the local population regardless of ability to pay.

Now operating under Dignity Health, Marian Regional Medical Center built a new 191-bed hospital that opened in 2012. It consistently ranks in the top 100 hospitals in the country and won kudos from Consumer Reports and others for low infection rates and successful patient outcomes.
Those are well-deserved kudos.