A proposal for a city of Goleta that would include part of Isla Vista will be put to voters on June 8, after a county agency approved the plan last week.
Over the opposition of residents from several affected communities, the Santa Barbara County Local Agency Formation Commission finalized a proposal Thursday that would include a west I.V. neighborhood in a city of Goleta.
The plan will absorb the largely single-family home district west of Camino Corto into the new city. The rest of I.V. will remain an unincorporated part of Santa Barbara County.
Goleta is currently the largest unincorporated community in California, and is governed by the county Board of Supervisors.
While many I.V. homeowners applaud the proposal, opponents say the plan may spell doom for the change of self-governance in I.V., making it into an island unable to incorporate itself.
“Nothing in Common”
Not all fear the addition of west I.V. to Goleta, however. Ruth Barts owns a home in the subdivision, which is largely made up of longtime residents living in single-family homes. She said the majority of her neighbors, who call their community “Orilla Del Mar” rather than Isla Vista, want to be included in the new city.
“Orilla Del Mar was never a part of I.V.,” said Barts. “The streets were surveyed separately, they don’t even align.”
The portion of I.V. that is slated to become part of Goleta is also more quiet and well-maintained than other areas of I.V., Barts said. “We have nothing in common with the students,” she said.
According to cityhood proponent Dick Martinez, chair of the Goleta — We Want Home Rule Committee, Goletans are opposed to annexing I.V. and allowing its large student population to influence city politics.
Opposition to ‘Islands’
The exclusion of I.V.’s students and other renters from the city proposal has critics charging LAFCO with creating a pocket of undesirables the new city does not want to take responsibility for.
“I’m not in favor of leaving islands,” said former 3rd District County Supervisor Bill Wallace. Wallace was the main proponent of a failed 1987 cityhood measure that would have included all of I.V. in the city of Goleta.
Although he said including I.V. and Goleta in the same city may be politically impossible, Wallace told LAFCO members that I.V. should remain whole.
“If you are going to leave an island, I think you should leave the island intact and not split it up so that future options are simply not there,” he said.
The Isla Vista Community Enhancement Committee, working in conjunction with the university and the county, produced a draft report that heavily recommended some form of self-governance for I.V.
“The bulk of Isla Vista’s problems can be attributed directly to the absence of a responsive municipal level government,” states the report.
Goleta Water Board member Dave Bearman said LAFCO’s decision to divide I.V. would thwart the IVCEC’s best efforts by removing the stability provided by long-term residents. “With the county and UCSB cooperating with the enhancement committee, this is not the time to Balkanize the area,” he said.
Demands for ‘Urban Service’
Thursday’s meeting attracted a large number of homeowners from a semi-rural neighborhood north of Patterson Avenue known as Rancho Del Ciervo.
The neighborhood homeowners association voted overwhelmingly to keep their area out of the proposed city of Goleta, fearing that inclusion in the new city would ruin the rural character of their property and reduce home values, since residents would no longer have Santa Barbara addresses.
LAFCO ruled, over the homeowners’ loud objections, that Rancho Del Ciervo would remain within the boundaries of the proposed city. Board members said creating islands outside the Goleta service area is against LAFCO’s principles.
According to LAFCO Chair and 3rd District Supervisor Willy Chamberlin, Rancho Del Ciervo “demands urban service.”
“I cannot separate that from other urban areas,” he said.
Bearman, who favors excluding all of I.V. from the Goleta cityhood plan, charged Thursday that LAFCO cannot legally establish government entities that leave large portions of unincorporated areas within their geographical boundaries.
“Just a few months ago Chairman Chamberlin, in discussing Rancho Del Ciervo, you were eloquent in pointing out that you can’t exclude a portion of an urban area,” Bearman said. The commission was doing just that to east I.V., he said.
“I.V. should either be added to a proposed city of Goleta, annexed in total to the city of Santa Barbara or should have a separate incorporation,” said Bearman.
In what could prove to be Goleta cityhood’s biggest challenge, the county Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to require the new city to repay the county for tax revenues the county will lose as a result of incorporation. The amount has been estimated at $1 million per year, in addition to a $5.67 million debt on the county-owned Santa Barbara Shores parkland that Goleta would inherit.
In an attempt to make cityhood more palatable to voters, LAFCO voted 3-2 to lower the amount of money Goleta will owe the county, and to stagger the payments over a longer period of time to allow the new community to get on its feet.
Chamberlin voted against the reimbursement plan, since he opposes requiring Goleta to pay the county for services it will no longer receive as a city.
Cityhood proponent Dick Martinez said that while he was glad that the proposal was approved with LAFCO, he disagreed with the county’s reimbursement scheme.
“We’re not happy about the financing. They’re giving our money away,” said Martinez.