On Wednesday morning, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang announced that he will wait until September to bring the campus’s 20-year plan before the UC Regents. The university had intended to present the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) to the Regents on July 13, but uproar from neighboring jurisdictions — particularly the City of Goleta and the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) — caused Yang to delay the presentation, which would have almost certainly been followed by UC Regents’ approval and a certification of the associated Environmental Impact Report.
Saying that “good progress” on a “cooperative agreement” had been made with Goleta and the County of Santa Barbara and that “continuing discussions” are happening with MTD and the watchdog group Sustainable University Now, Yang explained in an email to The Independent, “Because we value our good working relationship with our community, as a gesture of goodwill we have agreed to postpone the presentation to the next Regents’ meeting in September.” Yang also explained that the Regents meeting is not the end of the process, but that the LRDP will also go to the California Coastal Commission, which, said Yang, “will involve a lengthy process with numerous opportunities for public participation and refinements.”
Yang’s decision came less than 24 hours after a particularly testy hearing of the MTD board, which is worried the plans to expand to 25,000 students by 2025 will derail an already overloaded bus system. Despite MTD’s pleas to have UCSB wait until September, senior vice chancellor Marc Fisher assured on Tuesday, “At this point, we’re still moving toward the July Regents meeting.” That prompted MTD’s Dave Davis into a self-proclaimed “harangue” of Fisher. “You’re gonna blow out our transit system,” said Davis, who wondered why MTD was not invited into the discussion earlier. Fisher replied that MTD had been invited months ago when he spoke to Davis after a meeting — “I apologize if I didn’t put it on stationery,” quipped the vice chancellor — and said that MTD had to “take some initiative” in developing proposals on cooperation.
Fellow boardmembers Roger Aceves and Brian Fahnestock also grilled Fisher on whether the Regents have any contact with local governments (not really) and where UCSB expects the extra transit funding to come from (more student, possibly faculty fees as well as campus housing rental taxes were two ideas). “This is a very frustrating moment for the board,” said Aceves, a Goleta city councilmember. “It is a very frustrating moment for my city.”
In responding to questions about public input at the UC Regents meeting, Fisher revealed that the hearing almost always results in a rubber stamp approval. “The discussion all happens in isolation early in the day,” said Fisher of the public comment period, later adding, “You’re going to be addressing a group that may or may not be in their seats … I can’t tell you not to go, but I don’t think that it will have the impact you’d think.” In response to these revelations, Aceves observed, “It almost seems like this is going to the Regents on the consent calendar.”
But by Wednesday morning, heads were much cooler, and critics were encouraged by Yang’s decision. “I’m very pleased by the action,” said Davis, adding that he’s “looking forward to working with UCSB” toward a cooperative agreement. Added Aceves, “This is great news! It makes sense to work out agreements before the plan is presented to the Regents. I appreciate the fact that now we have time for our staffs to work together and present the agreements before our respective councils and boards.”