Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District board members debated the future of the 49 parking spots behind Perfect Park at its meeting Thursday night.
In 1991, the St. Athanasius Church located on the corner of Embarcadero del Mar and Embarcadero del Norte, proposed an expansion to the church. The Committee to Save Perfect Park, an I.V. activist group created in 1970, opposed the proposed expansion and brought the proposal to the ballot with a signature campaign. The expansion was voted down; however, IVRPD compromised and decided to lease land adjacent to the church to be used as a parking lot for 10 years.
IVRPD’s lease to the church expires December 31, 2001. With lease expiration in mind, board members began discussing various other uses for the land, including a proposal to convert the parking lot into a pay lot. The Committee to Save Perfect Park came before the board last night in opposition to this proposal, claiming that the original plan in 1991 called for the board to revert the land into park space.
Committee to Save Perfect Park member Laura Price said the committee supports a complete removal of the lot because it relieves little parking congestion in I.V., but has a historical obligation.
"UCSB abuses the community. We all want convenient parking spaces, but 49 spaces is not going to make a difference. We should honor history and go with the original plan. In 1991, the Park board gave the parking lot as a concession to the church. It was sort of an olive branch sort of a thing. It was always our intention that the area would be returned [to its original state]," Price said. "We cannot turn our backs on our promises and that vision."
IVRPD General Manager Derek Johnson said IVRPD has discussed the possibility of using the lot for financial gains.
"The Perfect Park parking lot committee met and put together some ideas, and we came up with the idea that we could lease it out and maybe we could take a certain percentage of the revenue generated from the lot," he said. "We could make it into a pay and display lot, either with the help of an outside contractor for fee collection and enforcement, or enforce it with the help of the Sheriff’s Dept. But we have yet to determine at a policy level what we are going to do."
Committee to Save Perfect Park member Carmen Lodise, a 28-year I.V. resident, said he disagreed with the idea of using the lot for profit.
"It just doesn’t seem right to turn this into a revenue generator," he said. "For all of us to look at this as a money-making opportunity instead of getting rid of the damn thing just doesn’t seem right."
Johnson said the lot offers a needed solution to I.V.’s major parking problem.
"As a community, there is currently a 500-parking space deficit, and the conversion of Embarcadero Hall into a 300-person seating lecture hall will only add to the need for parking," he said. "The parking lot offers some help to the inadequate parking in I.V."
Committee to Save the Parks member Scott Wexler said the parking lot does not belong in Perfect Park.
"When we were fighting for keeping Perfect Park in the ’70s, we were not fighting for a parking lot. The parking lot should not be there. If the IVRPD has financial trouble getting it out, I’d come out here myself with a pick and wheelbarrow and take it out, " he said. "The whole point of parks is to add to the common good. Paying for parks is not only expensive to residents, but it also encourages the use of cars."
IVRPD Chair Pegeen Soutar said the board must consider a variety of options before making a final decision.
"We’re still in the process of figuring it all out. It’s not an easy decision. None of us are crazy about the parking lot, but I don’t want the church to lose any of its operation if we take it out. That is a problem for me," she said. "All of us also have a long-term goal of putting in a community center. This would be a good way to generate funds. I know it’s not an easy decision."