UCSB gave members of the public a chance to comment on its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Wednesday night, June 4, at the Isla Vista Theater, having presented it the day before to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Following a brief presentation on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by Crawford, Multari & Clark’s Chris Clark-hired by UCSB to complete the study-the 40 or so community members who showed up had a chance to air their grievances with the University’s planned expansion. Based on an increase of 5,000 students from the current enrollment of 20,000, the LRDP would include an additional 1,600 faculty and staff on top of the current 3,350 now employed. Clark’s study noted a number of significant impacts, including impacts to Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA), cultural, biological, and traffic impacts, and an estimated increase in water consumption of 856 acre feet per year-a consumption rate he said may exceed the Goleta Water District’s projected water supply.
The majority of the people who came to speak at the hearing-which was officiated by Tye Simpson, UCSB’s Director of the Office of Campus Planning and Design-were Storke Ranch residents opposing a potential connection between Phelps and Mesa Roads. Wearing pink badges on their shirts and lapels, they said that their relatively quiet street would see quite a bit more traffic if the road were opened up, endangering the many children who regularly use the playground on Phelps Road. While an official study counted up to 3,400 cars per day already traveling on Phelps Road-with the number projected to increase to 7,500 after the University’s expansion-residents of Storke Ranch said that their end was considerably more quiet than the section of Phelps that is on the other side of Storke Road-and they’d like it to stay that way. A couple of the homeowners had conducted independent surveys of the number of cars traveling on their street during a 24 hour period, and both obtained the same result: 33. Residents also expressed concern that opening the road would increase the number of unsafe student drivers on the street. “The majority of accidents are caused by drivers ages 18 to 23,” said Dawn Hymendinger, an ER nurse at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
Some participants from the commentary said that there is a lower enrollment-increase option that was not addressed by the EIR, and felt that reducing the increase in student and faculty/staff population would be a better way to mitigate impacts from the University’s planned expansion. A suggestion offered by one commenter, and echoed by one or two others, was that UCSB explore the option of opening a satellite campus in Santa Ynez, Santa Maria, or some other place where the pressures of increased population density might not be felt so acutely. “I think they’re being fairly honest about unavoidable impacts to water, commuting, traffic, and housing, and they have a smaller growth potential that they haven’t put on the table,” said Dick Flacks, a professor of sociology at UCSB.
With the prospect of additional water consumption by the new, larger campus, the concern has been raised that there might not be sufficient water available from the Goleta Water District. Currently, UCSB is GWD’s largest water consumer. “There are a few things we’ll have to do to address that,” said Marc Fisher, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management. “First, we need to reassess our water needs. Second, we can examine the possibility of outside water purchase, and third, we’re looking at an extension of the reclaimed water system.” UCSB purchases reclaimed water from GWD for its landscaping, and could possibly find other uses for reclaimed water. “It’s really critical that we get the community involved. We’re getting closer.”