Plans to demolish Ocean Road this year have been postponed amid mounting public pressure to halt the housing project’s rapid progression.
The Ocean Road Housing Project maps out the development of 532 units of faculty, staff and graduate student accommodations that will be situated along the western edge of campus. Although the plan was scheduled to receive the go-ahead this year, the project must now wait for approval of the Long Range Development Plan – also known as UCSB Vision 2025 – before construction can commence.
Last fall, UCSB released an initial study for the development that included the possibility of the project proceeding even before the LRDP approval process was completed. According to Director of Campus Planning and Design Tye Simpson, an amendment to the original 1990 Long Range Development Plan would have been necessary in order for the Ocean Road development to move ahead of the 2025 LRDP. After some community groups and local officials questioned that approach, campus administrators abandoned the idea and decided to wait for LRDP approval.
Simpson added that the project was delayed so that campus officials can discuss the plan in further detail with the community and local government.
“The concern on the part of some community groups is that the university would approve the housing project in advance of the forthcoming action plan [UCSB’s Vision 2025],” Simpson said. “I think community groups and citizen organizations understand and appreciate these plans. They have not expressed a concern about the actual project, but they fear the university would build the housing for current faculty, staff and students instead of for future faculty, staff and students.”
Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said that even if the plan was approved on the spot, the university would still be unable to move forward with construction due to financial constraints.
“It’s a long-range development plan – emphasis on long – so the way we proceed will depend on the local economic situation,” Lucas said. “So even if [the LRDP] was approved today, we wouldn’t proceed with our plans during a time like this. We would wait until the economic climate improved, as well as UC enrollment.”
Since the project was originally pitched as part of UCSB Vision 2025, Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Design and Facilities Marc Fisher said this decision has simply reset it to its initial course.
“The original intention was for the Ocean Road Project to parallel or follow the 2025 LRDP,” Fisher said. “The re-circulation process [of the LRDP Environmental Impact Report] and an associated schedule delay caused an appearance of an accelerated schedule for the Ocean Road Project. The project and the LRDP are now back on the original combined schedule.”
Once completed, Fisher said the housing would offer an affordable option for the UCSB community.
“This is one of many housing projects that the campus is considering to provide affordable housing for faculty, staff and students in a very expensive real estate market,” Fisher said. “The immediate community will become more economically and demographically diverse with the addition of faculty and staff.”
Furthermore, Simpson said the project would be beneficial because the construction of housing units on Ocean Road and the remodeling of the Pardall intersection will help fuse Isla Vista with UCSB.
“I don’t believe in all developing projects,” Simpson said. “I think this is an unquestionably beneficial project for both the university and the community, because it provides affordable housing, improves the physical relationship between UCSB and Isla Vista and reduces traffic by providing places for people to live on campus instead of commuting on public roads.”