Not one, not two, but if a local design is adopted, Isla Vista might find itself right smack in the middle of a six-mile continuous oceanview park.
The design “Isla Vista For All,” submitted by the Santa Barbara-based firm Blackbird Architects in the I.V. Master Plan Design Competition, seeks to improve the community with expanded open spaces and the redirection of major thoroughfares.
The major theme of the design is a proposal that would eliminate oceanside residences along Del Playa Drive to create an uninterrupted mile-long bluff-top park, according to Blackbird architect Yianni Doulis.
“The park would run along the whole length of DP,” he said. “It would include small spaces that would be small gathering spaces, active recreational areas, clumps of native vegetation and sort of more passive parks.”
An incentive plan, which would allow oceanside DP property owners to sell their property to the county in return for “building credits,” which they could in turn sell to inland property owners, seeks to alleviate property owners’ concern regarding the creation of a continuous bluff-top park, Doulis said.
“Density and whether you increase it or keep it the same is a big question that needs to be decided by the community,” he said. “But we have proposed that through a number of mechanisms, the bluff top along the oceanside Del Playa units over the life of the project – which is quite a bit of time, maybe 30,40, 50 years – would be phased out. The county and Isla Vista would acquire them as open space, but those units, the number of bedrooms associated with them, would be redistributed within Isla Vista primarily around the sort of commercial core.”
Although the design focuses on very specific additions and alterations to the fabric of I.V., Doulis said it is important to understand that nothing is set in stone, and everything is subject to public opinion.
“Keep in mind that although we take a snapshot and we say this is what we think would be a good idea for Isla Vista, it is all in the context of a lengthy and very open design process. That lasts quite a bit of time, where community input is solicited everybody sits down and talks about what they want,” he said. “It is a flexible thing so any one element of the plan is not fixed in stone; these are principles we use to guide our design.”
The proposal calls for the creation of a gateway to the community by redirecting Los Carneros Road to meet the intersection of El Colegio and Camino Pescadero.
“We had imagined that if you replace two three-way intersections, like the intersection at El Colegio and Los Carneros, with one four-way you do a lot of things. You create one entryway that is legible, you create a connection to the ocean, which we think is important,” Doulis said. “Pescadero then becomes the main sort of access from the outside-greater-Goleta area to the ocean, and it will be safer.”
The plan also calls for the creation of a gateway located at the intersection of Pardall Road and the university.
“The gateway to the university becomes a sort of large-scale plaza which is very much bike and pedestrian oriented. It is also a point where on the I.V. side there would be commercial, retail, cafes, music stores, that kind of thing and perhaps housing above,” Doulis said. “On the university side, we could imagine that it would be lecture halls, student clubs, offices, housing – different kinds of housing like graduate student housing – a parking structure to serve the event center, and other sort of university things that would be ringed around that plaza.”
Doulis said the parking problem in I.V. is in part due to the practice of nonresidents parking on I.V. streets in an attempt to avoid parking fees and would be addressed in this proposal through a residential permit system.
“Commuters to the campus, rather than pay the daily parking fee, park in I.V. and walk over. So they use it as a parking lot – that is not fair to I.V. really. So some of it is related to university parking use, and that would have to be negotiated,” he said. “The other thing is like, for example Francisco Torres. It costs money to park there, and there isn’t enough parking, so people park on the west side of Isla Vista and just use it as a parking lot. So having a residential parking system eliminates those kind of parasitic uses basically. [A residential parking permit system] would be 24 hours, there would be guest parking that would be limited in duration so you could come and shop, go to a restaurant or an event, but you couldn’t park there for 24 hours.”
I.V. streets will be subject to renovations under the proposed design.
“There will be lighting and sidewalks for safety as well as street trees. This is all happening within the existing public right-of-way; it is not like we are taking anybody’s land away for it,” Doulis said. “Different street trees will lend identity to different blocks, say we have a bunch of Lindens or we have a bunch of Coast Live Oaks or Italian Stone Pines. It lends identity, it beautifies, it creates a visual marker. If you have a row of relatively upright trees along the north/south you can tell that they are accesses that lead you down to the ocean, they maintain views to the oceans and to the mountains. And along the residential streets they also become a traffic-calming measure; you have trees along there, and it feels like you want to go slower. It is like having parked cars on the street that slow you down; it is the same sort of effect.”
Improvements to recreational fields along El Colegio are also outlined in the proposed design.
“Right now there is a big swathe of unused area where the bikepath goes through adjacent to the playing fields that are used constantly. There aren’t any structures or facilities that are serving those playing fields right now,” Doulis said. “So our plan will create athletic structures like changing rooms, like showers, field houses, maybe bleachers for the play fields. But the play fields don’t shrink in size; it will just use a plot that is right now inactive landscaping. You activate it with the service structures.”
The time frame for completion of the redevelopment process is dependent on multiple factors and is therefore impossible to estimate with any accuracy, Doulis said.
“We just took three snapshots basically, the beginning, middle and end. A lot is dependent on the county and the financing stuff, which is really too early to say. Typically, you think of a master plan happening in 20 years,” he said. “Something like the bluff-top park is probably something more like 50 years.”
The proposal addresses the issue of housing, particularly the increasing demand, by suggesting eight differing housing styles, Doulis said.
“There is a spectrum of different types [of housing styles] which range in density, from adding a second unit onto a single family house to having a courtyard with townhouses and live/work housing above retail. That is the sort of range from almost suburban to pretty urban,” he said. “We chose eight primarily because it fit well on the board and we wanted to show that there were a wide range of options, but that number isn’t fixed at all.”
Doulis said the proposal should not be viewed as an attempt to homogenize the housing stock or the town, but rather as a slow revitalization of an aging community.
“People in Isla Vista tend to not want [I.V.] to be Santa Barbara, so we are not really seeing this as a grandiose plan; we are seeing this as incremental, as achievable, as sustainable and as flexible. We have a strong desire and commitment to sustainability; we don’t have a strong commitment to a particular look. Isla Vista has a very eclectic look now, and we don’t see imposing standards on things that make it look like Santa Barbara,” he said. “We are open to and wanting to keep the kind of funky and diverse character of Isla Vista. This is something we see happening over a long period of time; we’re in it for the long haul, and we see Isla Vista growing and improving and revitalizing over a long time, not coming with the bulldozers at all.”