UCSB should be in same supervisor district as SBCC because of issues such as housing
Every 10 years, governments ranging from school boards to Congress take on the difficult task of redrawing political boundaries to balance population with updated census numbers. While most pay attention to this process at the federal level due to the impacts it can have on the balance of power in Congress, far fewer pay attention to the lines being redrawn at the local level, right here in Santa Barbara.
The lines the Santa Barbara County Citizens Redistricting Commission will draw in the coming weeks will affect Santa Barbara residents for the coming decade. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is composed of five districts whose representatives manage the over $1 billion county budget, which funds programs involving health care, social services, local environmental issues and more.
Of particular concern is the fact that the current supervisor lines split the communities of UCSB and Isla Vista off from a significant portion of Goleta and Santa Barbara City College.
I went to SBCC and am now at UCLA. Due to the pandemic keeping me in Santa Barbara most of this year, I ended up spending much more time at UCSB than my own school, where I have made many friends.
Students at UCSB work, live, visit and spend time in Santa Barbara. For most students, despite being only 30 minutes from Lompoc, Santa Ynez or Santa Maria, these communities are worlds apart. (I haven’t met a single UCSB student who has been to any of these places). Likewise, the homeowners of North County see their communities as significantly different than the university area.
On the contrary, Santa Barbara City College and UCSB have a symbiotic relationship.
Between 2006 and 2011, 71% of SBCC’s transfers to the UC system went to UCSB, and one of every three UCSB transfer students came from SBCC. The majority of UCSB students live in Isla Vista, along with nearly 20% of SBCC students.
The schools reside in the same school district and UCSB students and staff vote in SBCC governing board elections. These shared interests in representation are evidenced by the fact that UCSB students drove Johnathan Abboud, Isla Vista’s Community Service District general manager, to win a seat on the SBCC governing board.
Compare that relationship with that of UCSB and Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria.
Allan Hancock students are more likely to commute from their homes, less likely to rent, and there is no student housing on campus. The student population of Allan Hancock is widely dispersed throughout the North County while UCSB and SBCC students and faculty are largely concentrated in the same neighborhoods.
By far, shared interests are most visible through the lens of housing issues. No issue has a larger impact on the everyday lives of communities in Goleta, Isla Vista, UCSB and SBCC than housing.
In the wake of the resignation of architect Dennis McFadden from the Munger dorm project and the ensuing media and public ire toward the construction of the hideous structure, the question arises: while the Munger project is definitely closer to a cruel physiological experiment than a college dorm, is this outrage doing to relieve the housing crisis? The communities surrounding UCSB are suffering, and housing shortages plague the area. With the return to in-person instruction this fall, the school resorted to housing students in hotel rooms.
Rental prices in Isla Vista have already held the spot of “most expensive per bedroom in Santa Barbara county” for years, and the best solution UCSB has come up with so far is a window-less dorm akin to a prison.
The city of Goleta, home to a large population of students and professors, has resorted to suing the university due to the damages that overenrollment and underdevelopment are causing for the Goleta economy and housing market. The UCSB a long-term Development Plan had stated that before 2025 or the student body exceeds 25,000, they would build more housing, yet in 2018 had already exceeded that student population by nearly 1,000, and had built no additional housing.
The community is fracturing under the weight of these issues, and that division is fed by the fact that these communities are represented by two different supervisors with conflicting goals and priorities.
To start bringing some unity to this issue, combining representation of communities with like interests to encourage cooperation over conflict would be a great place to start.
Isla Vista, Goleta, UCSB and SBCC have complex, interwoven interests and should be kept together in one district. The current lines split this unique community and place half of it with distant cities that share absolutely no commonalities with the Santa Barbara area.
Our community is stronger together. We need a representative who can speak for all of the university community in Santa Barbara, for everyone who is feeling the effects of the housing shortage, and for the most diverse and environmentally conscious area in Santa Barbara. This year the Santa Barbara County Citizens Redistricting Commission has the opportunity to right the wrongs of10 years ago.
They should draw UCSB and SBCC, along with all of Goleta and Isla Vista together in the same district to ensure that we can bring real, consensus solutions to issues facing our beautiful community.
The author is a former SBCC student