Approval and implementation of the Isla Vista parking permit plan may be close, as the California Coastal Commission is expected to review and perhaps pass it this November.
The plan, which has been in the works for several years, would require residents to buy a permit to park in I.V. The CCC is currently redesigning the plan to assuage the worries of local activists, who say it limits beach access and is inexcusably expensive.
If the CCC can create an agreeable compromise, the plan should be in effect by the beginning of next school year, said John McInnes, the Santa Barbara County director of strategic and long-range planning.
“We spent a couple of years working with the community and we made a plan that the Board of Supervisors approved and it was appealed by the Coastal Commission,” McInnes said. “The ball is in the Coastal Commission’s court, and they’re working with us to come up with a workable plan.”
A representative from the CCC could not be reached for comment.
The Surfrider Foundation has been the biggest opponent of the parking plan. Surfrider Executive Board Member Scott Bull said he opposes the parking plan in part because it would limit the public’s beach access. He said the county has other alternatives it should consider.
“There are two things they could do to fix the situation without permit parking,” Bull said. “One, they could develop better forms of alternate transportation, and two, they could step up enforcement so people don’t park on the street for weeks at a time.”
Besides limiting beach access, Bull said the permit plan is expensive and would be unfair to students and especially to families in I.V.
“Working people actually need their cars and can’t afford the extra cost,” Bull said.
Between 85 and 92 percent of street parking in I.V. is occupied at any given time, McInnes said. He said there are approximately 3,000 on-street parking spots in I.V. and UCSB commuters are taking up 700 to 1,000 of those spots on a daily basis.
UCSB chemistry professor Richard Watts has been working with UCSB and the county to help develop the parking plan. He said Surfrider’s complaint about beach access is not entirely valid.
“Free beach access does not mean free parking,” Watts said. “It means free beach access.”
Bull said UCSB should be more active in encouraging students who commute to park on campus, and not in I.V.
“I don’t believe that UCSB has taken a leadership role to address students who park in Isla Vista to avoid paying to park on campus,” Bull said. “If UCSB daytime commuters are causing the problem, then UCSB should be the one who helps solve the problem rather than charging residents.”
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the estimated price for the annual permit is $75 to $100. Parking meters and short-term free parking will be available in downtown I.V., he said, and the cost of parking in I.V. will be comparable to that of parking on campus. He said the county is also looking to purchase property for a parking lot or a parking structure in I.V.
In the original plan, permits for cars registered outside the county would have cost $195. In the plan that the Board of Supervisors approved in June 2004, permits for cars registered outside the county would have cost $150, and $95 for cars registered within the county. Firestone was not yet on the board when the plan passed.
“I have pledged to never support anything over $100,” Firestone said. “Davis, I think, is $25.”
Firestone said the county’s redevelopment agency, as well as possible grants from the state, would fund the permit project. The county would receive a portion of the profit from permit purchases and citation fees.
“There is an elaborate formula for who gets what,” Firestone said. “Law enforcement gets some and I think even the state gets a cut.”
Regardless of how the money is divided, McInnes said the sum total will be negligible.
“No one has indicated this will be a money-making program,” McInnes said.
While permit sales may not merit much profit, Bull said the county will garner significant amounts of money from ticketing those without permits.
“It’s going to be a Santa Barbara County cash cow in terms of the amount of revenue from fines and forfeitures,” Bull said.