When associate history professor Mark Elliott was looking for a new house last December, he found the perfect one with a yard for his eight-year-old son and his own space for grading papers or doing other work. But the $600,000 price tag sent him looking again.
Five months later, Elliott was shown another house in the same neighborhood but by then the cost had risen to approximately $700,000. Elliott came to UCSB in 1993 but is leaving to teach at a college in the Midwest next year, frustrated that he could not find an affordable house that meets his family’s needs.
“It was frustrating not to be able to provide a house and a yard to my kid,” he said. “People I know at other universities around the country have houses with a yard, three bedrooms, four bedrooms.”
Elliott said his decision to leave is a complicated one and the university tried to help by offering a second Mortgage Orientation Program loan – where the university is the lender and automatically withdraws payments every month – but it was not enough to support the type of house he wanted.
“I know my concerns are being taken seriously,” he said. “I have no serious grounds for grumbling or griping except I can’t afford to live here.”
By 2005, UCSB expects to hit its enrollment count of 20,000 students on average per quarter and the university is planning for 1,116 full-time equivalent faculty (FTE), which is composed of permanent faculty, temporary faculty and lecturers. This is an increase of 42 FTE faculty, but housing prices are already high and housing problems are already severe.
Elliott is by no means the only UCSB employee in need of affordable housing but to solve this problem, the university will have to work with Santa Barbara County. In the past, the university and the county have had a somewhat contentious relationship, although the Ellwood-Devereux Plan is improving their relationship as each side works toward the common goal of solving the housing crisis.
The Ellwood-Devereux proposal acknowledges in its introduction the relationship between the university and county as an “unprecedented cooperative effort to guide development in western Goleta.”
“It was a process the university could not embark on unilaterally,” UCSB Physical and Environmental Planning Director Tye Simpson said.
Still, Goleta City Council member Jack Hawxhurst said past problems, such as a lack of consultation between UCSB and Goleta, could continue to occur in the future because, unlike most developers, UCSB is not required to consult the Goleta City Planning Commission before developing within the city limits.
“The university, in the most positive and negative aspects, is an 800-pound gorilla and the question is whether it will stay at 800 pounds or become 1,500 pounds,” he said. “Either we’re going to start building a Great Wall of China and throw things over the fence at one another, or we can understand what cooperation is and that would involve cooperation on the part of the university.
“The way it’s going, we’ll end up growing into an 800-pound female gorilla and get friendly with the university,” he said.
Chancellor Henry Yang said UCSB will work with local agencies as it develops and expands.
“We are always mindful of the fact that what we do here has an impact that extends well beyond our boundaries,” he said. “We consider the people of this community as our partners in achieving the best possible quality of life for all of us who are so privileged to live here. I think that UCSB is a wonderful asset for our community and we work hard to ensure that we are a good neighbor.”
The UC is required to notify the community prior to construction of any project, but is not required to seek the approval of the Goleta City Council or the county. Once the UC Board of Regents has approved a project, they issue a notice of impending development that lets the community know the proposal. The county does not have the authority to take action on any university development.
The Ellwood-Devereux proposal would allow the university to build 437 units of faculty and student housing, and possible mitigation for increased traffic has been discussed but not finalized. Hawxhurst said the Goleta City Council is encouraging the university to open alternative campuses in other areas such as Ventura and Camarillo as an alternative to expanding in Isla Vista and Goleta.
“[Building in other areas] is something we’d like to see [UCSB] pursue because they’re such a huge force in Goleta housing. I’d like to see them spread their impact to other places,” he said. “We’d also like to see them restricting their trend of building and renting in Goleta.”
A portion of student registration fees, totaling $200,000, is put into a general fund to help pay for housing for faculty and staff. Simpson said this is combined with other funding to pay for university housing “so that the burden did not fall exclusively on local government.”
While seeking more housing for its faculty, UCSB is also involved in the Isla Vista Master Plan project to improve living conditions for its students.
“The Isla Vista revision and master plan is going to be quite extensive and is going to touch off, and has already touched off, a variety of areas of life,” Dean of Students Yonie Harris said. “So I don’t anticipate that there will be any lack of involvement in the Isla Vista community as long as we’re involved in the master planning process. We have extensive connections to the community and I don’t think that those will diminish.”
It is not known when the development proposals will be approved, but until then, UCSB, the city of Goleta and the county will be preparing for expansion, and trying to maintain a positive relationship with one another.
“As the cracks appear because of us having a built out community and their coming to the bursting point as far as land for building; we all realize we will have to cooperate with each other,” Hawxhurst said. “We just hope that it’s going to be a relationship of mutual respect.”