After an hour and a half of logistical bickering Wednesday night between local business owners and other members of the Project Area Committee (PAC), the committee temporarily put aside its differences to hear the proposed plan for the future of Isla Vista.
At the meeting, Envision Design – the Berkeley-based architectural firm hired by Santa Barbara County to head I.V.’s redevelopment plan – proposed an outline for the future of I.V. The outline touched on principles of community building and the construction of pedestrian-oriented design.
The Envision design plan will include the redevelopment of the transportation, infrastructure and commercial core of I.V. Envision proposed the idea of building upwards to prevent I.V. from growing out into open spaces.
Envision designer Daniel Parolek said the design team will work to maintain the characteristics of I.V.
“The key advantage of towns like I.V. is that you can walk or bike to activities,” he said. “It’s about valuing public space.”
PAC member John Bennett, who was representing UCSB’s Associated Students, said changing the direction of growth could alleviate the cramped living environment in I.V.
“Building up instead of out is a key solution to the housing problem in I.V.,” he said.
High school senior and I.V. resident Zollita Cabrera said she was concerned the new plan would not provide substantial low-income housing for Latino families and students.
“They should keep it the way it is,” she said. “They should have more low-income housing.”
Local business owners have filed a lawsuit against the county claiming the PAC violates the Brown Act – which states a decision-making body cannot convene without proper public notice – and the 14th Amendment. The suit, filed in October, claims that the business owners are not fairly represented on the PAC. In addition, they filed a complaint about the validity of the actual PAC election on Oct. 30, 2001.
Lou Ventura, owner of Ventura Enterprises, a PAC member and one of the citizens on the lawsuit, said business owners have been concerned about the PAC since its formation in October.
Ventura said the business owners are especially concerned about the PAC’s ability to recommend the use of eminent domain – the power used by government agencies to acquire land for open spaces or public projects – to force the owners to relocate their businesses.
” [We are] suing to stop PAC, and thus stop the county from walking into I.V. and doing what they want,” he said. “Eminent domain is probably imminent.”
County redevelopment project manager Jamie Goldstein said he sympathized with the business owners’ fear of eminent domain.
“It’s a valid concern,” he said “If the PAC feels [the property] is an eyesore in the county, eminent domain will be a last resort.”
Bennett said he would have liked to see more of his peers taking an active part in their community.
“I wish more people from the community came out. This has a lot of promise, and its success relies on student involvement,” he said.