After nine months of searching and $60,000 in awards, jurors for the [Re] Vision Isla Vista Master Plan Design Competition selected a California firm’s vision of I.V.’s future.
The competition concluded Sunday with the announcement of the winner: Envision Designs. The Berkeley-based firm beat out four finalists, 29 international entries in all, winning an additional $10,000 and the right to negotiate a contract with the county to produce I.V.’s master plan. All five finalists previously received a $10,000 honorarium to revise their proposals.
Competition Advisor Bill Liskamm said the 10-person jury had a difficult time selecting a winner.
“The competition was really down to the wire. There were many good things in all the designs, but the jury liked the composition of the Envision scheme,” he said. “They liked the light touch of the scheme that wouldn’t disrupt Isla Vista, but over time addressed the problem issues.”
The jury, made up of five community members and five California planning professionals, not only looked at the proposed designs of the finalists, but at the composition of the design teams themselves, juror and architect Regula Campbell said.
“We looked at the makeup of the teams – their expertise and experience,” she said. “We were really looking, not so much at the specifics of the plan, but for the team that would listen carefully to the concerns of the community. We want them to focus on how to solve problems and carry forth those special qualities that make Isla Vista a special place to live.”
Liskamm said Envision Designs’ plan was superior those of the other four finalists because it focused on key issues like transportation and housing density.
“The jury really liked the attention that was given to transportation and parking,” he said. “They liked the attention to the downtown area. They [Envision Designs] recognized the tremendous need for additional housing, and they addressed that in an innovative way.”
The county’s next step in the master plan process is to finalize the paperwork with Envision and prepare for a number of public meetings to gather community input.
“The next two months will be spent drafting a contract with Envision Designs and assembling a Community Advisory Committee,” County Supervising Planner Lisa Plowman said. “Then we will hold nine months’ to one year’s worth of public meetings. We will be keeping the community updated and involved.”
Envision Designs architect David Sargent said their plan was revised before it was submitted and refocused on important issues of transportation and parking.
“During the weekend at Berkeley there was a lot of debate over the transportation scheme,” he said. “We were focusing on building, and our transportation consultant was relentless in stressing its importance. We lost that [debate with the transportation consultant], which is why we’re here today. I believe this shows we are open to suggestions.”
Isla Vista’s parking shortage was a major concern addressed in the Envision design, Sargent said.
“Isla Vista has lots of density and not a lot of parking,” he said. “At first our issue was how to get more parking, but our transportation consultants focused on how we could improve street fluidity. We didn’t want to set up a situation that encourages students to bring cars – a lot of students don’t have or need cars.”
Sargent said that Envision Designs is open to and encourages community input.
“Most of what we need to hear from the community, we haven’t yet,” he said. “We need the community to start the process. We had to come in with drawings for the competition, but we really want to draw the community’s ideas.”