In the latest round of public forums-at last week’s Goleta City Council Meeting and at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting this week-UCSB again presented its Long Range Development Plan. University administration clearly stated its goal of increasing current enrollment from 20,000 to 25,000 by 2025. County supervisors said little of the plan, but a host of criticisms has issued forth from community organizations, area residents, and most of the Goleta City Council. County staff, for their part, appears to be at odds with UCSB over the projected costs of increased public services, including transit, public safety, and parks.
While most agreed that UCSB provides the South Coast with valuable cultural and economic resources, critics for years have cited that it also affects the environment, traffic, water supply, and housing availability. At this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Gene Lucas-UCSB’s executive vice-chancellor-said that although the university is no longer legally required to hold public workshops, its higher-ups want to maintain good relations with the surrounding community. He added that the university provides an economic benefit to the Santa Barbara economy that exceeds $1 billion.
The university has indicated that its yearly growth will be roughly one percent-or about 250 students-per year until 2025. At $90.4 million for road improvements, $12.7 million for more Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, and $33.9 million for parks and other miscellaneous expenses, county staff presented a stiff price for the increased enrollment number, which County Long Range Planning Director Derek Johnson said would account for more than 15,000 people once faculty, staff, and other indirect growth factors were accounted for. Lucas said that the UC campuses at Berkeley and Santa Cruz were required to pay much less for mitigation, but Johnson countered that those numbers were based upon settlement agreements resulting from litigation by those city governments.
Expressing frustration with what he said were unfulfilled promises by the university to improve community infrastructure amid current pressures-most notably with the incomplete widening of El Colegio Road along the edge of Isla Vista-Goleta City Councilmember Michael Bennett called for better community relations efforts from the school’s administration last week. “When UCSB sneezes, we all get a cold,” he stated amid applause from members of the audience, saying that the time had 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,” Bennett continued.
Present at both meetings, Storke Ranch residents expressed their opposition to the Phelps Road extension-a proposed pass-through connecting Storke and Los Carneros roads-which they said would significantly increase traffic through their neighborhood. Speakers, including representatives from Caltrans, MTD, and Goleta’s City Council, supported additional sustainable transportation options included in the plan. “I would think that a university as cutting-edge as UCSB would be able to think-tank ways to mitigate transportation impacts over time,” said Larry Newland, a Caltrans senior planner. He continued that the option of widening Highway 101 near UCSB-which is being examined in the plan-is hugely expensive and that the community would be better served by providing better bus and bicycle facilities.
Water use impacts-which will be discussed Friday, March 27, at the Goleta Water Board meeting-were one of the primary resource impacts discussed, as were impacts to air quality. “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 Goleta City Councilmember Margaret Connell. Hillary Hauser, executive director of Heal the Ocean, commented that wastewater impacts had not been adequately addressed in the plan, despite county staff’s indication that significant increases in surface water runoff would result from the large increase in buildings and parking area needed for the exploding enrollment.
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 accepted growth model to something that could be considered sustainable. A divide exists between those who want the university to take a lead role in creating a sustainable community and those who feel 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 Goleta City Councilmember Eric Onnen, referring to President Barack Obama’s call for Americans to pursue education. What is clear is that the UC Regents have spoken, and they want more students at UCSB.