The unfortunate reality in Santa Barbara County is that community projects are developed and implemented at a snail’s pace. In the Isla Vista/UCSB community this is especially true, and the trend is exacerbated by the large residential turnover. The I.V. Community Center is a perfect example of the problem – the project has been drawn out over 24 years and still lacks much needed definition.
The I.V. Recreation and Parks District (IVRPD) first broached the concept of a building that would offer services to both students and local families in 1977. Over the course of time, it was agreed that the structure would be completely “green,” constructed as an environmentally sound work of art and home to classrooms, a multipurpose room and recreational facilities. The project is an extremely noble attempt to generate a community hub and offer resources similar to those found at the university to non-students. However, lack of popular support, stemming from a failure to achieve any directional consensus, has bogged down any significant progress.
Last week in the UCen, the IVRPD exhibited four proposed models for the Community Center, created by architecture students at Cal Poly. This is the culmination of a quarter-century’s worth of effort – no blueprint, no contractor, no specific figures for square footage or cost, just a handful of feasibility studies. The Nexus staff does not, by any means, intend to discredit the IVRPD Board of Directors, which has done more for this community than any other group organization or individual. What is missing is a larger consensus on the Community Center’s priority among the numerous public-works projects that are needed in I.V.
The county’s Redevelopment Plan is another project that is slower than molasses in January, and it contains the Isla Vista Redevelopment Plan which aims at a large-scale physical overhaul of I.V. Planners have waffled about whether to tie the Community Center to [Re] I.V. or to disengage and sally forth alone. Redevelopment funds have more cash to offer than a solo venture, but supporters of the center have complained that their building is taking a back seat to other elements within the county plan. Does the Community Center deserve to climb up front? It depends who you ask.
In 1992, voters defeated a ballot measure that would have generated $250,000 a year to help fund the center. This is a clear indication that many local residents doubt that the Community Center will be the galvanizing force that IVRPD has prophesized. Many of the services the center would offer already exist in I.V., albeit in more dispersed locations. Indeed, the I.V. Teen Center has even expressed its desire to maintain independent facilities and operation. In addition, county administrators and Isla Vistans have pointed to the fact that I.V. is already a tight community and other projects such as roads, sidewalks, parking and lighting are much more pressing than the Community Center.
There is no question that the proposed I.V. Community Center would be a wonderful asset to this town – but the more pertinent issue at hand raises a question of priority. Planning and feasibility studies have absorbed a tremendous amount of time and energy over the last 25 years, with minimal progress. The IVRPD has two options: It must swiftly put one concrete construction proposal before the county so the center may be included as a phase-one priority in the Redevelopment Plan, or it must garner enough funding to strike out alone. Either route, however, is contingent upon adequate support from local residents, and at this point the general consensus seems to be in favor of spending the next 25 years concentrating on roads, parking and safety.