Plans for the development of university-owned land into faculty, student family and graduate housing are gaining momentum now, along with concerns for the environment and pressure by faculty and staff to provide affordable housing in a pricey market.

As a result of the rising cost of housing in Santa Barbara, plans are in the works for more affordable homes to be built on the 174 acres of land purchased by the university in 1994 to support the recruitment of faculty and graduate students.

David Ward, project planner for the county’s Comprehensive Planning Division, said there are 269 units of faculty housing proposed along the West Campus area on Phelps Road, 144 units for student families on Storke Road, and 50 units at the West Campus Mesa site. The faculty homes will be on a university land lease so that when the faculty member leaves, the university either buys it back or sells it to a new faculty member.

“The median sales price for homes on the South Coast is $600,000. We’re hoping we can provide the homes to faculty at about half that cost,” acting Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Everett Kirkelie said.

The area of land extending from West Campus to Sandpiper Golf Course is divided into three separately owned plots of land. The Santa Barbara Development Partnership privately owns the Monarch Point Reserve property, which is sandwiched between the county-owned Santa Barbara Shores property and the university-owned Devereux Slough/Ellwood Mesa property, adjacent to West Campus.

There are many habitats in the Devereux/Ellwood Mesa, including vernal pools, the Devereux Creek, expansive areas of native grasslands, the Monarch butterfly grove, the coastal bluff and the inner tidal area, which are all part of a sensitive coastal habitat, Ward said.

“The county doesn’t want us to develop in the big expanses of land bordering the coast. Instead, we will cluster-develop in the northern portion of the campus,” Kirkelie said. “We will cluster the housing in smaller acreage at a little higher density so that there will be one big area of open space from I.V. to Sandpiper golf course.”

One hundred and twenty acres of open space will also be reserved for the public on the West Campus bluffs and the land south of the golf course.

The wetland near Storke Field, the area where the university has proposed to build the San Clemente graduate student housing, is another environmentally sensitive area.

“A big issue in the development of Storke Field is the preservation of the wetlands, and to avoid spoiling those views of the wetlands,” said engineering professor Duncan Mellichamp, special assistant to the chancellor for long-range campus planning.

All properties are subject to the California Coastal Commission, which is concerned with the protection of natural resources and habitats, and supports recreation and public access, Ward said.

Ward said there should be a preliminary draft plan out in January, followed by an Open Space and Habitat Management Plan in spring, along with the beginning of the environmental review process.

“In late summer 2002, things will start coming together,” he said. “Then it will be moved forward to the public review process where people have the opportunity to respond to the environmental document. It’s a complex, multi-year effort with quite a few parties involved, but it’s looking to involve all these issues in one regional master plan.”