Oh my gosh. Stop the presses - construction on the Isla Vista Master Plan has actually begun. I keep looking up in the sky, expecting to see flying pigs. After a million years in the making (or maybe more like eight), Isla Vista is finally going under the knife and receiving its long-awaited facelift.
I’ll admit something to you: Ever since I signed on as Eye on I.V. columnist, I’ve known that I would have to write a column on the Master Plan, and I have for just as long feared doing so. The original IV Master Plan is over 700 pages long and filled with all sorts of developer mumbo jumbo and intricate timelines. Also, writing about the installation of a new sewage system on Pardall Road is boring. But this change in I.V.’s layout is monumentally important, both aesthetically and socially, and is quite deserving of column space.
Before we dive into discussion of the revamping of I.V., you’re going to want to have a map close by. I’ve been living in I.V. for two and a half years and I still get confused.
The I.V. Master Plan - which is such an awful name for something that actually benefits I.V. immensely - is the result of hundreds of meetings, drafts, forums, discussions between planners and the public, and much compromise. The Master Plan, as explained by Deputy Director of the Master Plan Jamie Goldstein, isn’t a necessarily blueprint to rebuild all of I.V. so much as a regulatory document to guide private development in IV. Revitalization and redevelopment just happen to be lumped into the plan.
The Master Plan has to do with zoning in Isla Vista, which says what certain areas of land can and cannot be used for. When the university was established and people started living in Isla Vista, Goldstein explained that there were essentially no zoning regulations. Through anti-development efforts by activists in the 1970s, I.V. was “downzoned.” The Master Plan aims to push zoning efforts back up, closer to what they were when people first started building in I.V., so developers can continue to build in this already-urbanized area. Because of Isla Vista’s proximity to the coastline, these re-zoning regulations require approval from the California Coastal Commission, which has yet to give it. Goldstein said that it could take anywhere from six months to six years for the Coastal Commission to give the county the go ahead to re-zone the areas.
Along with changes in regulations, the Master Plan also “revitalizes” parts of I.V. that desperately need it. Projects that aren’t part of rezoning efforts and therefore do not need Coastal Commission approval - things like widening sidewalks and improving drainage systems - are finally getting underway.
Phase one of the three total phases of the Master Plan started last week with construction on Pardall Road - I.V.’s best effort at a downtown - with the removal of the roadblock at the end of Pardall at Camino Pescadero. The trees on that roadblock only caused a hazard for bikes and cars, neither of who could see each other coming at that intersection.
With the roadblock gone, cars can drive through Pardall onto Camino Pescadero, but not for long. Goldstein said a new, less bulky roadblock, which will only allow bikes and peds to pass, will be rebuilt about 100 yards down the road in front of Giovanni’s pizza. This will visually create a bracket between the commercial part of Pardall and the residential part near Camino Pescadero and will also allow residents in the apartments on the end of Pardall to access their parking lots via Camino Pescadero, reducing traffic at the problematic Pardall-Embarcadero del Mar intersection.
All along Pardall, crews are ripping up the street to work on gas lines, storm drains, and the water main. People who are interested in keeping up with the construction on Pardall can check out redevelopment specialist Jeff Lindgren’s blog filled with wildly fascinating posts regarding the Pardall Construction, such as the pouring of the first concrete and the installation of a Filtera.
When I sort of poked fun at Goldstein and crew for getting so excited over some concrete, he laughed. With any project that has taken years and years to develop on paper, he said you get giddy over small victories. The Master Plan has morphed in many ways from when it was first drawn up. At first it included a plethora of roundabouts, until the county hired a consultant who hated roundabouts. The palm trees in front of Freebirds were slated to be ripped up until some palm tree-lovers at the last minute fought to protect them. Now about 70 trees will be planted along Pardall. There had been much discussion about Pardall becoming a bicycle-only street until storeowners refused to compromise and build an alleyway behind their stores for commercial vehicle access.
While today’s Master Plan isn’t exactly what anybody wanted, it is something everyone can settle for. Mostly, people are just glad that projects are actually happening and that I.V. is finally receiving the attention and upgrades it needs. Goldstein said that he has heard an excited buzz from locals and boardmembers alike. He and others have taken great lengths to be sure that storeowners - whose business is most affected by the construction - are included in the processes and to make sure they don’t lose revenue during the construction.
Construction in I.V. is likely to become a more permanent fixture now that the ball is finally rolling. On Pardall, sidewalks will be widened and trees added, and, if all goes well, improvements will get rid of that lake-like puddle between Java Jones and Silvergreens. The intersections at Embarcadero del Norte and Embarcadero del Mar will also be concrete, as opposed to asphalt, as they are now. There will also be construction on El Colegio as part of a joint project between the county and the university, scheduled to be begin in the next month (which will just make moving in at the start of the school year that much more fun).
Overall, though the Master Plan might be a mystery and ominous thought to students (“If someone says ‘Master Plan’ to me one more time, I’ll shoot someone” said a friend of mine), its improvements will ultimately benefit I.V.’s residents and will finally bring us those sidewalks we’ve been begging so loudly for.