UCSB Building Fuels Isla Vista Parking Hell

Planned High Rises Make Too Little Provision for Parking

Isla Vista has no parking — none — a fact that contradicts two-year-old Santa Barbara County parking surveys that pre-date UCSB’s construction of high rises on top of Francisco Torres (FT, aka Santa Catalina Hall) parking lots. Isla Vista’s Master Plan surveys will continue for two more years before the plan is presented to the California Coastal Commission. Some form of parking permit program — the only solution — will take at least two years beyond that time. This means four or more years of parking hell in I.V. — courtesy of UCSB.

At an October 5 meeting in downtown I.V., county planners listened as scores of residents complained about the lack of parking and the nocturnal hikes that are necessary after returning from work or school. Many cited safety as a major concern. Nothing is more irritating than arriving home and finding no place to park — especially late at night. Add the fear of assault, and you get the full picture. Will you find a safe spot? Doubtful with over 20,000 residents in the area competing for 3,500 parking spaces.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Isla Vista’s parking hell is the complete disconnect between the Isla Vista Master Plan and UCSB’s avalanche of building. One can hardly blame the county for this debacle since what builder could ever construct high rises on parking lots without mitigating for the impact on a surrounding community? UCSB is not subject to any oversight nor does its new construction generate taxes to pay for obvious impacts such as parking permit programs. FT (once a convention center hotel) and the new San Joaquin towers will have a paltry 216 on-site spaces for a total of 2,300 residents.

Predictably, western Isla Vista, the last remaining area with any significant open parking, is now used as a day and nighttime parking lot by UCSB tenants and staff. Student and staff commuters have always used I.V. as a cheap alternative to paying for on-campus parking; a fact UCSB is well aware of. The school’s last survey — in 2009 — showed at least 900 staff and students parking in I.V. daily. As of now, Francisco Torres/Santa Catalina is completely full of tenants with not a single on-site parking spot available. The situation will worsen once the San Joaquin towers and adjoining tumors are completed. I.V. is the closest and cheapest (free) place to park.

In the real world, a $26 billion enterprise that is California’s third largest employer would be compelled to mitigate long before it ripped up a Francisco Torres parking lot. This is where Governor Brown can help by reining in the UC behemoth. Instead he signs Das Williams’s AB3 utility tax proposal, requiring taxpayers to foot the bill for a parking district amongst multiple other duplicitous items. That is assuming students are dumb enough to double-tax themselves come next November.

Meanwhile, there is no parking in I.V. with no relief in sight. The culprit is UCSB, and it offers no solution, even as students hike long distances to apartments and houses. It is time California administer a tranquilizer by making UCSB mitigate for its impact. No business should be able to build housing for thousands with no parking — especially not in a coastal zone.

Peter Neushul is a 30-year Isla Vista resident.


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