Bigger is always better, or so we’ve been led to believe. Universities are not exempt from this maxim. By 2025, UCSB is scheduled to increase its student population by 5,000, to have built 5,443 additional single living spaces, and to have created or replaced 8,750 parking spaces.
This is all in UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), which is going through the planning process at this time. If you’re wondering how this is going to affect surrounding areas, including Isla Vista, I can tell you, it’s going to make the problems the residents face worse. That is, unless the university alters its approach.
UCSB representatives mostly seem to take a hands-off approach to what students do off campus. Once students walks into I.V., what they do is their or someone else’s responsibility. I understand the rationale, but this does not create good relations with the university’s neighbors.
Right now, student-generated problems in I.V. include parking, trash, excessive noise, and random stupid acts that can be surprisingly creative. You never know what you’ll see when you stroll the streets of I.V.
Parking has always been an issue here. When 12 students are packed into a house and each one owns a car, this means that the street is filled with their cars. Now imagine that every house in I.V. is filled to capacity. If you find a parking space in the area, consider yourself lucky.
There are provisions in UCSB’s LRDP to provide enough parking, as well as housing, etc., to accommodate all the new students, faculty, and staff. But even if it does, there’s no guarantee these opportunities will be taken. Take for example the parking problem. While it’s difficult to find a parking space in I.V., you can drive a short distance and see rows of empty parking spaces in some of UCSB’s lots. You may ask why that is. It’s simple, students, just like everyone else, know that free is better.
Also, while the university might pride itself on going green, not all students have embraced the concept. Many left their cars behind when they left home to come to the university, but there are still quite a few who need their cars to sit out front of their homes in anticipation of the weekly Albertson’s run.
Maybe the university could offer a tantalizing incentive for all the students who do not bring cars here. (A fee break, coupons to Blenders, what have you.) This, coupled with a focus on the use of the shared vehicles (e.g. Zipcar) would make having your own car a little less attractive.
Then there’s the trash. While the university is going to build housing on campus for the additional students, this does not mean these students won’t be socializing in I.V. I suggest that the university start a trash education program to teach students about such basic environmental practices as recycling and cleaning up after yourself. Maybe the university could even fund trash patrols. I’d love to see students get tickets for leaving red cups all over the sidewalk and street after a party. After Halloween, some of the larger cactus plants were decorated with empty cardboard boxes. That should be a fat ticket.
Another problem I.V. residents have to deal with is the party element. More students mean more parties, more noise, and more drunken and disorderly behavior. While hiring more police officers will be essential to keeping the peace, the university can also play a role. Last year, UCSB did team with the local community and law enforcement to make sure that a repeat of the Floatopia debacle didn’t occur. In the future, this type of collaboration will be essential to make sure that the university has a positive relationship with I.V. and other nearby communities.
The university has a mandate to grow, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop that progress. There is a way to make sure this growth has the least negative effects on the community surrounding it. If community members can voice their concerns and suggestions about parking, trash, and party-related issues, and if they are listened to, there is a good chance that things won’t get worse.
In fact, with a little more attention to the details that will make living in I.V. easier for residents, the university could take the LRDP as an opportunity to make things better for its neighbors.