The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the road to UCSB is paved with committees.
It’s a wonder it’s paved at all, and who knows if it’ll ever get to Old Town Goleta.
For the last five years, various schemers, dreamers and project plan leaders have been locked in mortal committee meetings over what to do with Highway 217, Old Town Goleta and UCSB. The Old Town Goletans want to spruce up downtown Goleta so maybe people won’t laugh when they say, “downtown Goleta.”
And the county did bring forth many committee meetings, and lo, after much dullness, there was a plan to cleave the Highway of 217 with stoplights and lure unto Goleta many autos and consumers who might shop and stay at the luxury hotel that was to be built. And lo, the county and the Old Town Goletans did look upon the plans, pronounce them good and pass them on to the engineers. And there was much adjourning.
The people who use 217 to get to UCSB, our Staff Members and the University’s Regular Faculty (S.M.U.R.F.s), were, shall we say, nonplussed by the whole idea. S.M.U.R.F.s like 217 the way it is for the same reason I do: you can drive down it at 115 mph, howling along with John Lennon and “Instant Karma.” Stoplights are known to impair that. So the S.M.U.R.F.s started complaining, and we all whine on.
The county said, do not worry, S.M.U.R.F.s, of course we will involve you at every substantive step and address your concerns in a sincere and meaningful fashion. The S.M.U.R.F.s were soothed, at least until 1999, when they realized they had been sincerely and meaningfully invited to help with the landscaping.
The S.M.U.R.F.s got angry and pointed out that stoplights would cause traffic accidents and cut out high-speed access in case of an emergency.
Today, the university and the county are meeting with Caltrans, which has been called in supposedly to negotiate an impartial deal, but also, just maybe, to make sure the University of California, another state agency, gets a little something more than kind words out of the county.
Stoplights are probably not going to get the green light.
Besides, the county is feeling like the whole 217 thing is too much of a hassle, what with the economy going to hell and the Goleta folks giving themselves a city. So maybe, just maybe, the county thinks, the great state of California would like to keep paying for the upkeep on Highway 217, which, after all, was built by the state for the university. Definitely something to keep in mind.
This will probably come as a surprise to Jonny Wallis, a big supporter of Old Town Goleta and a recently elected city council member in the Grand Duchy of Goleta. Wallis got involved into politics to fix up Old Town Goleta. The Old Town Revitalization folks have been working for about six years to scrub, scrimp and primp the shaggy dog below Hollister Avenue, which is currently prime real estate for dive bars and junk shops. They want a beautiful poodle of office parks, parks with trees, low-density commercial development (anything from a Starbucks to a K-Mart), and a fancy hotel.
The Page Hotel is the big burrito, as Dan Rather would say, because it would provide the tax revenue to pay for the rest of the plan. All those plans for big, shiny hotels and big, shiny property taxes will be small and dull indeed if no one puts a freeway off ramp into Old Town. It could still happen if the state keeps control over 217, but not anytime soon. Which is fine, since who wants to build a big hotel during a recession and in Goleta, of all places?
Hell, who still wants to build a stoplight or two?