The designer that has spent months trying to redesign Isla Vista presented a plan last night that Master Plan Project Manager Jamie Goldstein called a “new vision for Isla Vista.”
For most Isla Vistans, the plan will be a very new, very strange vision. It includes two-story and three-story buildings on Pardall Road, and cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating and possible faculty and staff housing along Ocean Road, across the street from the university. It includes more trees, more narrow streets and the possibility of resident parking fees enforced by an Isla Vista parking authority.
It features a plan to upgrade Pardall, an area Opticos Design Principal Daniel Parolek called “downtown” Isla Vista. Parolek, who has traveled back and forth between his office in Berkeley and Santa Barbara for the project, received scattered laughter from the capacity crowd in the Hillel building when he revealed he learned over the weekend to call Isla Vista “I.V.”
Over the next 20 years, I.V. would undergo major renovations if the Opticos vision becomes reality. Parolek said he wanted to focus specifically on two areas – the “downtown” area and Estero Park – and work out in a circle from each.
On Pardall, the design would try to draw shoppers to a newly designed, tree-lined open commercial center. A civic plaza and traffic calming measures such as roundabouts instead of stop signs would all serve to “soften” the landscape and make Pardall the “core area” in the development.
“We really feel downtown I.V. is the one area where there is a lot of opportunity for growth and change,” Parolek said.
Many of I.V.’s businesses have been skeptical of the plan so far because they fear construction will eliminate their client base and cause them to lose revenue, or worse, that they will be forced to close to accommodate the new vision. For many I.V. businesses, relocation is not an option.
“My whole point is how can you bring someone from State Street to I.V.?” said Mehrdad Homayouni, who owns the sandwich shop Sam’s To Go and the coffee shop Java Jones. “I think there are some great ideas and it could be done slowly, but I don’t think everything they said is going to fly.”
Business owners have supported some of the parking suggestions because students frequently park on the street in front of the businesses and then ride to class. The Opticos design calls for a parking management program similar to UCSB’s, which would make residents pay $35 a month for on-street parking and make visitors pay a $5 daily fee.
Opticos also wants to put meters in the “downtown” area and establish a county-appointed I.V. parking authority that could raise revenue through parking fees to use for transportation improvements, a suggestion that most students in the audience did not like.
Students in the crowd laughed quietly when Parolek presented information on housing patterns and said that the undergraduates “like” to share a room, while graduate students tend to favor their own space.
Senior environmental studies major James Lennon, a three-year I.V. resident, said the presentation breezed over the homeless issue and could disrupt downtown businesses like Sam’s To Go with extensive construction.
“I thought overall it was a good attempt at a difficult topic,” he said. “I would definitely like to see more on environmental issues and open space.”
Parolek suggested several park improvements, including expanding Anisq’ Oyo’ Park and emphasizing the ocean and mountain views from all of I.V.’s parks. He also proposed a skate park in Greek Park and basketball courts in one of the parks on Del Playa Dr.
“In feedback we had, people really like open space, but they want the open space to accommodate the type of recreation they want to partake in,” Parolek said.
The designers will be back in four to six weeks with a version of the Isla Vista Master Plan that incorporates feedback from this week’s series of community meetings. Although the plan is still in its preliminary phase, the presentation Tuesday drew the attention of some high-profile people, including 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall and UCSB’s Dean of Students Yonie Harris.
“It’s really progressed. It really has a shape, and I think the shape it’s taken is a lot less threatening than a lot of people thought it would be,” Marshall said. “It’s a great start.”
More information is available on the county web page at <www.islavistaplan.org>.