If chosen, a master plan proposal submitted from the East Coast promises much ado about parks, and very little else.
The design, submitted by the Orlando, Fla.-based architecture firm Glatting Jackson, focuses on ending the visually defined separation between the university and Isla Vista by Ocean Road, and on strengthening the presence of Anisq’ Oyo’ Park as a central development of the I.V. community.
Ed McKinney, architect for Glatting Jackson, said an architectural affirmation of the close relationship between I.V. and UCSB is necessary to compliment the existing ties.
"One of the main issues is the separation [between I.V. and campus]. The idea we came up with was to create esplanade parks to line Ocean Road. Right now, that area is an underutilized space. It doesn’t have any visual accessibility," he said. "The I.V. side doesn’t front on that space, and by the university, there is really only a series of parking lots that line the road. What we thought is that you could really make that space almost a central linear part between the neighborhood and the campus. Also, we plan on having new campus development front on [the esplanade parks] so campus development could face the neighborhood."
In addition to aesthetic techniques to enhance the connection between I.V. and UCSB, the firm would also extend road connections, McKinney said.
"We have to connect the neighborhood to the campus more strongly. We spent some time looking at how to connect the east side from where Pardall Road connects to the campus itself; we looked how to recreate that connection by extending the road connections," he said. "We found that some of the roads that dead-end in that neighborhood could be connected to Ocean Road through connecting a network of streets. It’s probably not the most critical issue for everyone that lives in Isla Vista, but it is critical from the university’s point. And it may be an issue for students as well."
The design seeks to emphasize Anisq’ Oyo’ Park as the center of the community. McKinney said the park’s increased aesthetic qualities would enhance commercial and residential development in the area.
"We took a detailed look at Anisq’ Oyo’ Park. We wanted to create one singular park that is kind of a central space for the downtown and the neighborhood. What that does is open up redevelopment around downtown that can front on that park and use it as an amenity for new developments," he said. "One of the things, just from our observations, is when you look at a couple of those parks, they’re inwardly focused, there is a lot of vegetation and hidden spaces that are both sort of uninviting from the outside and also could present some security problems."
McKinney said the plan would make the parks more accessible to the community, as originally intended by the I.V. Recreation and Parks District.
"The history of the parks is that the parks district had purchased pieces, as they have been available [and] as they have funds to do so. There is kind of patchwork of parks throughout the neighborhood – they are little lots; some are bigger, some are smaller," he said. "There is not a strong connection between the parks themselves and how they relate to the development around them. What we did is to take a look at the parks and thought of different ways that you could possibly rework them either by purchasing adjacent parcels or turning certain pieces back to development. When we looked at the original historic plan for I.V. itself, it originally intended that the whole loop to Pardall Road would be park space. This is sort of an interpretation of that – trying to recreate that idea of one singular park space."
McKinney said making the parks more accessible is necessary to emphasize their presence in the community.
"We came up with the idea to extend Madrid Road so that it runs through Anisq’ Oyo’ Park. The idea is to have the park as central to the neighborhood and so it has to be very accessible. We, essentially, wanted to get roads and public access on all sides of that park. Extending Madrid Road is a way to do that," he said. "It’s certainly dramatic because there are a lot of historical parts of the park that would be impacted."
The plan also addresses the need for housing in I.V. by increasing density in existing structures, particularly in the downtown area.
"The commercial buildings on the Embarcadero Loop are single story, and that jumps out as a real opportunity for new development to get density in there where there isn’t now," McKinney said. "Potentially, we want to create two-to-three story development with retail on the ground floor and additional housing units above and adding density. There are probably a lot of areas in the neighborhood where we could take a similar kind of approach."
The plan does not address the housing problem by offering additional parking, but would instead seek to discourage students from bringing their cars to school by promoting public transit.
"It’s a tricky situation because to create off-street parking would be taking away valuable space from the neighborhood for single-use parking lots. Our strategy is to make parking more restricted, particularly along Del Playa where you have that tandem parking issue. If we were to make parking more difficult, it would be a disincentive for people to bring cars to the neighborhood," he said. "We have to build a transit-supported network to support this strategy. It would have to be led from the Metropolitan Transit District – they’ve got the ability to find grants that could fund these types of things."
McKinney said the plan would attempt to reduce traffic on El Colegio by creating alternative routes through I.V. and UCSB.
"We want to alleviate the traffic on El Colegio by creating street connections that allow you to bypass the street. We plan to create a roundabout by Los Carneros and extend Camino Pescadero to offer an alternative to El Colegio," he said. "It will make the whole neighborhood a lot more livable."
The streets in I.V. would also be redesigned to allow for sidewalks and trees to narrow the streets and control traffic speed.
"One of the tricks is the streets as they exist today have a limited amount of space for sidewalks. Our proposal was to do sidewalks throughout the property," McKinney said. "It is a costly and time-consuming process. But it should be a goal of the community. Street trees will create a more residential nature to the streets, and that is also very important. The road would shrink visually, and that could also help to control traffic speed and make it safer for pedestrians and all the bicycle riders in the neighborhood."
McKinney said the plan would not touch any local natural reserves.
"We left the wetlands and other reserves alone. We made sure to stay out of those. We think that they are good strong things," he said. "We’d like to have passive connections to those places and maybe views of them because they are certainly features to keep prominent in the community. But I don’t think there’ s any need to get into developing any of those areas. They are really a strong part of the character of the neighborhood itself.
McKinney said Glatting Jackson’s redevelopment process would work to include residents in the process to ensure the development meets community needs and expectations.
"One of the first things we would want to do is to meet with the community to find out what aspects of our plan work, and then we would structure a process to complete the plan that would involve the residents in a more direct way," he said. "Some of the road work could happen pretty quickly, but a lot of these things take a lot of time to implement – maybe 20 to 30 years. Some of the danger of this competition was not being able to work with the community in a direct way. We only know a little bit from our few trips and observations, so we need the residents to help with the development of the plan."