One California architectural company’s proposal for the Isla Vista Master Plan Competition envisions I.V.’s future as a community connected from all angles.
Envision Designs, a Berkeley-based company, focused its proposal on blurring the border between UCSB and I.V. and creating a “downtown” I.V. on Pardall Road. The plan, which would take place over a 15- to 20-year period, seeks to implement different parking options and regulations for I.V. residents, redirect campus traffic away from El Colegio Road and revise current Santa Barbara County building codes to allow for more density within I.V.
Envision Designs’ [Re]Vision I.V. Team Leader Daniel Parolek said the company hopes to initiate these changes subtly and without destroying the character of I.V. by working with existing structures instead of removing and rebuilding them.
The plan focuses on an overlap between the university and I.V., which would be achieved by the construction of structures to be used by both the community and UCSB, Parolek said.
“We felt right now there seems to be a real clear distinction between where the community ends and the university begins. We want to create a physical connection by extending the buildings. The idea was to extend Pardall through to the university so that the intersection of Pardall and Ocean Road would be more of a retail or commercial [center] geared toward the students,” he said. “The rest of those buildings, as you go to the campus side, would transition to community buildings and typical university buildings, like offices and classrooms. As you go north and south along Ocean Road, the buildings we were showing would then become student housing.”
In order to create an improved transit system while connecting I.V. with the university, the plan includes a shuttle service, which would run from the west side of I.V. onto campus. Parolek said the shuttle would end at a proposed “Transit Bike Mall,” located past Ocean Road at the end of Pardall Road.
“Our diagram shows the primary [shuttle] route being down Pardall and then along Sue-o Road, going east-west. By providing a shuttle service – it wouldn’t be a large bus, more of a small shuttle that goes through the center of the community – we hoped it would be more accessible to everybody, as opposed to most of the transit now, which seems to run along El Colegio,” he said. “What [the Transit Bike Mall] would do is accommodate a smaller shuttle and also be a very safe, comfortable place for bicycles.”
To encourage the concept of Pardall Road as a downtown I.V., the proposal calls for the revision of current county building codes to allow for the construction of additional stories on existing buildings, creating mixed-use facilities.
“Because there’s such a limited availability of developable land, [mixed-use buildings] provide the opportunity to … really encourage local businesses to expand as needed,” Parolek said. “And also looking at second and third floors for housing would begin to provide more housing within Isla Vista and in turn would really create more energy within the center of Isla Vista. Also, with an increase in the availability of housing it would provide more affordable housing.”
In a case study of Sue-o Road, the plan demonstrated the possibility of adding 35 new units over a 14-year period, while increasing open space from .6 acres to 1.5 acres through the additions of walkways.
“The thought would be going through this process and looking at revising the codes in order to provide an incentive for developers to come in. Basically, all of the housing that exists right now [in the plan] would be illegal according to existing codes,” Parolek said. “So there’s no incentive for developers to come in and reinvest or rebuild or redevelop their housing within the community because if they wanted to rebuild a building, they wouldn’t be able to have as many housing units on their particular lots, because of parking and density requirements.”
In order to improve I.V.’s aesthetic appeal while increasing density, the company hopes to focus on streets as a primary aspect of open spaces, according to Parolek.
“One of the biggest areas we discussed as far as open space within Isla Vista is really the streets. Within our scheme we were hoping that by improving the aesthetic quality of the streetscape, that the street really becomes a primary component as open space,” he said. “In the case study that we did along Sue-o Road, the thought was that as densities do begin to increase, they’re not increasing to the point where it becomes drastically different. The design of the increase in density is that it’s not perceivable from the street. But on a block-by-block basis, as the density does increase, they look for opportunities to increase open space.”
The design also proposes the options of required parking permits and parking time limits within the business area of town – Pardall Road, Embarcadero del Mar and Embarcadero del Norte – or the possibility of construction of multilevel parking garages.
“The parking as we see it is primarily for the commercial uses, or should be. We feel most of the market for the commercial area are the students, who are primarily on their bicycles or commuting as pedestrians. So we want to provide parking, but we don’t feel there will be a huge demand in parking for the commercial uses,” Parolek said. “We felt we should show an option on how garages could potentially incorporate into Isla Vista. [The placement of the garages on the proposal] is more of an idea. It gets to be a problem with tearing down existing buildings, which we’re not promoting. We wanted to show the parking garage as an option, but we definitely feel our system of creating on-street parking and using parking permits is a much better scheme.”
To decrease the number of automobiles in I.V., the concept of permitted parking could potentially extend to the rest if the community. Envision Designs’ proposal also includes the options of paid satellite garages and a car-sharing program, from which students could rent cars, according to Parolek.
“The reason for [the permits] is a lot of people end up bringing their cars and storing them on the street. And because the parking on the streets is free, you’re not going to be able to compete with the parking at the university, which you have to pay for,” he said. “Another option is the creation of satellite garages. … If there is a satellite parking service, there would be a shuttle service basically picking them up at their homes and take them to their car-sharing garage or the garage they may pay to store their car in.”
The redirection of university traffic from El Colegio Road to Mesa Road is also included in Envision Designs’ proposal.
“The proposal to convert Mesa Road into the primary entrance was actually an idea that was in the university’s long-term redevelopment plans,” Parolek said. “With the proper road improvements, what would end up happening is taking Mesa Road would actually be more convenient … as a result of proper road upgrades and designing [Mesa Road and Stadium Road.] to the point where it would increase capacity.”
Parolek said Envision Designs will seek to include the community in all aspects of the [Re]Vision process if the proposal is adopted.
“We feel community participation is a key part of this revitalization strategy, and so we’re hoping that, if we are selected, to make it a critical component,” he said. “This entire proposal is really just trying to establish the framework and start a discussion with the community because that’s one thing we really wanted to emphasize. We don’t want the community to feel that we were coming in with the proposal already.”