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Going Coastal

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.

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