Isla Vistans made noise Wednesday at a county Planning Commission hearing and convinced Santa Barbara officials not to move forward with an update to the community’s Master Plan, in part because parking is too crammed, especially when the surf is up.
Testimonies denounced a study completed by county staff that found parking in the college town became easier from 2004 to 2013 — due to red curb removal, additional MTD bus routes, and a ride sharing program, among other reasons. The report stated just 78 percent of parking is utilized; a 15 percent vacancy rate is considered sufficient.
“I’m not sure where that 15 percent parking is at, but we’re not finding it,” said Pegeen Soutar, a long-term resident who chairs the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks Board. Another speaker added Del Playa Drive and Sabado Tarde Road are especially jammed for spots. Drivers wind up parking their cars on dirt, one critic noted, and finding other “inventive workarounds.” Other residents said parking availability varies from one end of town, hugging the UCSB campus, to the other, bordering Devereux. A student representative said rental properties charge as much as $300 for tenants to park in lots, and many students choose to park on the street instead.
One person took issue with large housing complexes The Loop and Icon Apartments, built in a beach town known for its duplexes and bungalows. Critics argue there is not enough parking to accommodate four-story developments, particularly considering the fact UCSB plans to add 6,500 students and faculty over the next decade.
In July, a few of the commenters voiced similar concerns at a Board of Architectural Review meeting that heard a conceptual application to build a multistory apartment complex where Woodstock’s and Aladdin Cafe exist on the 900 block of Embarcadero del Norte. The project would ax about 7,200 square feet and construct a new mixed-use 45,502-square-foot structure.
Written comments from county staff on that application noted the building would be the fifth mixed-use building of its kind in I.V.“Very urban and very dense. Needs to present master plan rational behind massing,” the comments stated. The purpose of the hearing was only for conceptual review, and no action was taken. To date, a planning application has not been submitted.
On Wednesday, Ken Warfield, who chaired Isla Vista’s Redevelopment Agency Board before it dissolved in 2012, referenced the historic battle over setting up a parking district in Isla Vista, opposing the idea of “UCSB taking our streets and renting them back to us.” Years back, a university-supported parking permit program in IV received pushback from the California Coastal Commission, which mandates public access to the beach. UCSB’s long range development plan, approved last year, requires the university to eventually reduce on-campus parking per agreements with the environmental coalition known as SUN (Sustainable University Now) and to increase alternative transportation.
The potential establishment of a parking program is written into Assemblymember Das Williams’s AB 3: to create a community services district in Isla Vista. The bill is expected to pass the Senate next week; Governor Brown would have until October 11 to sign or veto the bill.
It’s worth noting that approval of the Isla Vista Master Plan is necessary to move forward with construction of the community center, located in an old church building, because the building must be rezoned.
After hearing testimonies denouncing the 2013 parking study, county staff acknowledged Wednesday the community had changed since the study’s completion, and many changes will happen in the near future. The commission did not direct staff to do a new study, but, as several residents noted they have been left out of the loop, a meeting to gather community input about parking, among other matters, will take place in Isla Vista in the next few weeks. The Isla Vista Master Plan is scheduled to return to the Planning Commission on November 4.