After months of congestion and confusion caused by construction equipment and rerouted traffic, Isla Vista’s main commercial corridor has at last reopened. Amid fanfare, public figures and town residents cut the ceremonial ribbon accompanied by a band, a deejay, and complimentary refreshments from area businesses. Having undergone a major facelift over the last eight months, Pardall Road now features wider sidewalks and more emphasis on bicycle traffic. “It’s beautifully engineered,” said longtime Isla Vista resident Ken Warfield. “You don’t have to constantly look at your feet to see where you’re going.” Warfield recalled uneven pavement and drainage problems as the norm for the thoroughfare’s former incarnation.
At a cost of $2.7 million, the renovation increased the sidewalk area to give shops on the sunny, north side of the street – many of which are restaurants and coffee houses – more of a cafe feel. Although the traffic lanes are still the same size, Jeff Lindgren, a manager with the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency, said that motor vehicle traffic is being gradually phased out. “The bikes set the pace,” he said. “It’s taking that core cultural value of I.V. and making it evident on Pardall. This is a bicycling town.”
Tentative future plans include moving delivery service entrances and parking to the rear of shops on the street, Lindgren added. A number of trees were planted on the sidewalks, including eight 60-year-old date palms that now tower over the intersections at Embarcadero del Mar and Embarcadero del Norte.
Throughout construction, traffic – bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular – has been a problem. “It’s a challenge when you’re building a road project in the middle of an existing downtown,” said Lindgren, but businesses on Pardall were kept open during the process and survived it. The project kicked off in August, but Lindgren said a lot of progress was made during UCSB’s winter break, a time when I.V. typically turns into a ghost town.
Isla Vista residents both old and young seemed happy to have their street back. “We finally did it!” exclaimed Craig Geier, a longtime Isla Vistan active in community agencies. Warfield said that the efforts to improve Pardall Road go back to at least 1972. “We’ve made a few changes since then,” he said with a smile.