The Good Land’s Wild Ride at the CCC
by Ethan Stewart
Charged with protecting the integrity and beauty of the vast and varied California coastline, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) is often asked to weigh in on issues related to the development and enjoyment of Santa Barbara County’s beaches. During last week’s monthly meeting of the nine-member panel in Huntington Beach, the board — which included alternate commissioner and local resident Dan Secord — defeated one and supported two controversial plans for the sandy shores of Goleta and Isla Vista.
Several local activists and I.V. residents — including members of the Santa Barbara and I.V. chapters of Surfrider and the Sierra Club — trekked down the coast last Wednesday to watch as the CCC soundly rebuked Santa Barbara County’s proposed parking permit plan for the often congested streets of Isla Vista, despite the fact that signage is already in place. The commission unanimously defeated the plan that would have cost nonresidents $8 a day or up to $432 a year, while charging residents $150 for an annual permit — they felt it unfairly punished the public for a situation due in large part to UCSB students and staff who commute to campus and park in I.V. UCSB commuters use one-third of the approximately 3,000 on-street parking spots in Isla Vista. In voting against the plan, Commissioner William Burke urged university officials to “step up.” Many of the locals who spoke against the proposed program readily admitted that a parking plan was necessary for I.V., but argued for free day-parking and a nighttime-only preferential permit program.
On Thursday, the CCC — with Secord sitting in for Steven Kram — tackled the long-running debate over the rock wall at Goleta Beach. The 600-foot-long and 10-foot-high “temporary” rock wall was erected at Goleta Beach during the harsh early winter storms of 2002 in order to prevent sand erosion. Despite being given a March 15, 2003, removal deadline by the CCC several years ago, the rock wall — which never underwent an environmental impact review process because it was built with an emergency permit — has been allowed to remain through a series of permit extensions. In a narrow 5-4 vote led by Secord, the commission approved Santa Barbara County’s request for an additional 18-month extension on the seawall, to the dismay of opponents who argue that the effectiveness of coastal armor in the battle against beach erosion has come under fire from the scientific community in recent years. The matter will be revisited in coming weeks, as the master plan for Goleta Beach County Park and its required environmental review — scheduled to be released this month — also addresses the seawall debate.
Lastly, the CCC voted unanimously on Friday afternoon to approve two separate housing projects proposed by UCSB. Despite resistance from several Goleta residents and the concerns of the Goleta City Council, the panel gave the thumbs-up to an affordable 172-unit faculty housing complex on the North Campus near I.V. and to 151 student family units near Storke Road and Whittier Drive. The university contends that both developments will help ease student recruitment difficulties brought about by high real-estate costs.
Chief among the concerns of neighbors — who showed up at the meeting with a petition signed by some 500 people opposed to the structures — is the fact that the 11-acre North Campus faculty project features three-story structures and little distance (no more than 25 feet at places) between the buildings and the nearby wetland area. Partly to assuage these concerns, the deal requires UCSB to put a 70-acre parcel near the faculty development into a permanent conservation easement before the university can obtain any of their building permits.