Isla Vista’s beach accessways will not be refurbished until fall 2007, despite a promise from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors that it would occur this fall.
The renovations of beach accessways at the end of Camino del Sur, Camino Pescadero and Escondido Pass have been postponed until next year for technical reasons and, according to some, because of county bureaucracy. Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who had previously told I.V. residents that the accessways would be revamped this fall, said he is disappointed that the staircases will take an extra year to be renovated.
“People of Isla Vista should be unhappy with the county and me about this,” Firestone said.
Charles Ebeling, project manager of the restoration project, said storm drainpipes near the staircases must be repaired before any work can continue. Ebeling, a senior civil engineer for the Dept. of Public Works, said the pipes will probably have to be relined.
Besides postponing the refurbishment, the damaged pipes have forced engineers to redesign their plans to fix the accessways, Ebeling said. He said the board of supervisors has yet to approve the amended design and hire a contractor to begin the work.
“The schedule is to complete the design by December, and we do have to go through a bidding award process to hire a contractor, which takes two to three months,” Ebeling said.
Isla Vista Recreation and Park District member Diane Conn said she hopes I.V. residents will contact Firestone and urge him to complete the project for the safety of the community. Conn said the plan has been in the works for years, and the run-down stairways are dangerous to beachgoers, and could even warrant lawsuits.
“We need Brooks to get it back on the top of the list,” Conn said. “Do we need someone to get hurt before we make this a priority? We know better than that.”
Firestone said he worries for the safety of I.V. beachgoers, and is frustrated that the government process has been so slow.
“We should have been worried for years – the steps have been deteriorating for years and of course we worry, those steps are slippery and in disrepair,” Firestone said. “Why they’re not repaired now, I can’t explain.”
Ebeling said there is nothing Firestone could have done to speed the process, and the delays were not the result of negligence.
“There’s just so many legal hoops and state laws and county policies that we have to go through and so many proper procedures to start a project,” Ebeling said. “We haven’t wasted any time; it’s just the process.”
Conn said the county has neglected the stairways over the years, and current repairs are not sufficient to the need. Because of this, she said IVRPD should be given control over the accessways.
“We want them transferred to us so we can make sure they stay safe,” Conn said of the stairways. “It’s not about us, it’s about the safety of people in Isla Vista. It’s an ocean and it’s slippery and it’s wet and I don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
Ebeling said the county maintenance crew has always been on top of mending the accessways during the winter storms, and makes sure to close them when they are too dangerous.
“Our maintenance crew has been very diligent in keeping them together anyways,” Ebeling said. “Ongoing maintenance will continue as we go through this separate project.”