In yet another public forum, UCSB presented its Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) on Tuesday, March 17, eliciting a litany of criticism from members of the public and most of the Goleta City Council.
Many positive comments were made about the university’s overall contribution to the community, but all of the councilmembers save Eric Onnen – who called UCSB’s one percent-per-year growth model conservative – suggested that more attention be paid to the impact of campus growth on the community. “With the kind of growth that’s being proposed, we’re coming up against some real limits in terms of water and in terms of air quality,” said Councilmember Margaret Connell. For their part, UCSB officials said that in their efforts to obtain input from residents in the surrounding community, the issues of water, housing density, and transportation had generated the most interest.
Throughout the process, residents of the Storke Ranch community on the eastern stretch of Phelps Road have been vocal about their opposition to opening Phelps Road through to Los Carneros Road, but a UCSB official stated that the university was “agnostic in its approach toward the Phelps Road extension.” Storke Ranch resident John Dixon challenged that assertion, bringing up that the extension has never been removed from the LRDP despite notable public opposition. Others from Storke Ranch voiced their desire to see more public transportation options explored in the updated LRDP.
Beneath the main issues of population growth and development impacts caused by expansion of the university lurked the matter of UCSB’s role in changing the growth model to something that could be considered sustainable. Nobody seemed to know how to approach the subject, but a divide existed between those who want the university to take a lead role in creating a sustainable community and those who felt that it is not the responsibility of the school’s administration. “Re-creating the model [of living] in a new fashion is above the responsibility of this institution,” said Onnen, referring to President Barack Obama’s call for more educated people in America.
With respect to limiting the number of single occupancy vehicles on campus, Onnen said that the main impetus for the reported reduction in vehicle trips this year was higher fuel costs rather than a paradigm shift. He said that UCSB should “shoot for a more achievable goal” than the aggressive sustainability model called for by many of the public speakers at the council meeting.
Robert Bernstein, a UCSB alumnus and representative from the Sierra Club, accused UCSB of subsidizing single-occupancy vehicle use by adopting a parking fee structure he said makes it less expensive to drive every day than to buy five single parking passes, a decision that was allegedly made against the advice of their own sustainability planner. “UCSB needs to show leadership to mitigate the impacts of what they’ve already done; then we can come back and talk about a long range development plan,” he said.
Expressing frustration with what he said were unfulfilled promises by the university to improve community infrastructure – most notably with the incomplete widening of El Colegio Road along the edge of Isla Vista – Councilmember Michael Bennett called for better community relations efforts from the school’s administration. “When UCSB sneezes, we all get a cold,” he said, stating, amid applause from members of the audience, that the time has come for the university to limit cars to upper-division students. “We’re not UCLA with forty- to fifty-thousand students in a city of millions of people. The order of magnitude [here] is much greater.”
Councilmember Ed Easton, noting his understanding that UCSB receives a mandate for enrollment augmentation from the UC Regents, nonetheless said that more could be done to improve dialogue with the community. Mayor Roger Aceves queried what the city would look like with 5,000 more students and all of the attached staff and service employees required by that increase. “Why aren’t we considering the option of ‘We’re happy with what we have?'” he said, adding that the existing infrastructure should be improved before more development is effected at UCSB.