Those concerned about the future of UCSB met at 9 a.m. on Wednesday to talk about the school’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) at the redevelopment agency (RDA) office on Embarcadero Del Mar in Isla Vista. RDA representative Jeff Lindgren hosted Tom Figg, a Santa Barbara County project manager, to speak with business owners about how they will be affected by the potential new development.
Figg explained to those in attendance that the meeting was about making the collective “we” of the county more available to anyone interested in UCSB’s growth and its impact on the surrounding communities. Figg explained, “The university is planning to raise its capacity by 11,000 people [by 2025]. This is pretty ambitious and a significant number that raises several issues.”
According to the fiscal impact report conducted by an independent consulting firm hired by the county, the university annually costs $17 million but only brings in $9 million in revenue, leaving the county in the hole by $8.3 million. Figg argued that this deficit will only increase as UCSB tries to reach its 11,000 person mark, largely because the Long Range Development Plan has not accounted for the increased number of law enforcement and fire personnel that will be needed for the larger number of residents.
Derek Johnson, a director with the county’s Long Range Planning Department, argued that increasing the number of students will have a major impact on parks and will also necessitate an increase in the number of district attorneys, public defenders, mental health workers, and election officials the county will be called upon to provide. Johnson commented that when the county submitted comments on the LRDP back in June 2008 about these issues, the university essentially responded, “We are in the business of higher education, you’re in the business of local services, you figure it out,” in Johnson’s words.
A number of business owners were present voicing their concerns as well. Norma Geyer, president of the Isla Vista Association, expressed her frustration with the university’s uncooperative behavior. “They keep copying our shops on campus, but never give downtown [Isla Vista] business owners a chance to expand on campus even though we have approached them with many offers,” she said. Geyer later noted that national chains such as Panda Express and Wendy’s had opened up on campus, while only the only I.V.-based establishment that had managed this feat was Woodstock’s pizzeria.
Figg concluded the meeting by stating that the bottom-line is lack of understanding between the two entities involved. “The county and the university don’t see eye-to-eye on the costs of this plan and their responsibilities. There is an important role for those community members who are interested to contribute their input,” he said. Figg went on to say that on Tuesday the university resubmitted five sections of its Environmental Impact Report for the LRDP, which will be open to public comment until March 30. Figg also stressed the importance of paying attention to when the meetings are being held in order to be present and have the community’s voice heard.
For more information on LRDP meetings and other county-related information, see countyofsb.org.
Shannon Switzer is an Independent intern.