After seven years of preparation and community debate, the Isla Vista Master Plan dragged avid opponents and advocates through a six-hour hearing yesterday, the first of three such meetings.
The attitude of the most vocal audience members was wholly negative, as several I.V. business owners and residents continually expressed anger and disapproval at many of the proposals despite the fact that the plan is meant to “improve the quality” of I.V. life. The marathon meeting, held by the Santa Barbara Planning Commission, began at 9:30 a.m. with public comment, yet officials did not even begin to discuss the plan itself until 3 p.m.
“This plan will waste taxpayer money, cause blithe, interfere with private enterprise and increase gang activity,” Martin Henderson, a I.V. resident who called himself a “protector and investigator” of the community, said.
Henderson was specifically concerned with the environmental impact of the plan and what he said was the potential loss of historical sites – in particular Anisq’ Oyo’ amphitheatre. But Jamie Goldstein, deputy director of the County Redevelopment Agency, has repeatedly said in the past that the amphitheatre will not be removed and that the Master Plan is designed for the community with an intense amount of community input.
The plan aims to create a more concentrated downtown I.V., centered on Pardall Rd., and also looks to improve both parks and transportation throughout the beachside college town.
The Planning Commission will hold two more hearings – March 19 and April 4 – to further discuss complaints and comments it has received. Afterward, the plan will go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors sometime this summer and, if the board approves it, the county can begin implementing its various suggestions.
Some local business owners, like I.V. Bookstore owner Denis Tokumaru, attended simply to try and comprehend the final draft of the plan. But other business owners in attendance yesterday said they were confused and angered by the County Redevelopment Agency’s plan. The owner of DŽjˆ Vu, John Jamali, said he is “totally against the plan” because he believes it will hurt local businesses and the “smaller people” with its rezoning plans and will push for more construction.
Jamali said he would file a lawsuit against the county in civil court in order to “fight this crazy issue.”
“We will fight it legally until we get to the end of this,” Jamali said.
Meanwhile, Keith Russell, the SBCC vice president of external affairs, said the plan could hurt I.V., as the addition of more housing complexes – one possible option in the plan – would increase the population of I.V. by several thousand.
“I’m mostly against it because the plan will further the existing problems of overcrowding and high density,” Russell said.
The plan does encourage new development in I.V., mostly through rezoning, but Goldstein has previously said that new growth would actually be beneficial to the community. Since the county mandates that at least 25 percent of all new development must be designed as low-income housing, new construction in I.V. would help create more housing for the town’s impoverished residents, he said.
Outside the meeting, Ken Warfield, a member of the committee who advises the Redevelopment Agency, tried to calm worried local residents. He called the blueprint a “dream park,” but reiterated that nothing is final and that the agency will always consider the interests of the community.
“We will never do anything that the locals don’t want to do,” Warfield said.
By the end of the meeting, most attendees appeared frustrated with the process. At one point, a member of the board asked a speaker at public comment to proceed to the point more quickly. A quiet applause followed the board member’s comment.