County planners backed off from their plans to install traffic-slowing concrete islands on some Isla Vista roads after complaints from local residents this week.
Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall, along with the county Public Works Dept., has been working on a project to increase safety measures in I.V. One project entails adding sidewalks to streets without them, increasing the number of streetlights, installing brighter light bulbs in existing streetlights and placing traffic-disrupting concrete islands.
As part of the estimated $70,000 project, the Public Works Dept. sent crews out to I.V. to begin sketching the layout for islands in the middle of the roadway. The islands were to have been positioned initially as a test run to slow traffic in the middle of the block. The 6600 blocks starting at Del Playa Drive to Abrego Road were scheduled as test blocks, which were to have the first of these islands. The islands also were to have a tree planted in the middle. As part of the initial steps in installing the traffic-calming mechanisms, curbs were painted red on either side of the proposed islands.
Residents congregated yesterday on the 6600 block of Sabado Tarde Road gathering signatures in opposition to the proposed islands. Among them, junior business-econ major and a resident of one of the tester blocks John Eggart said the proposed structures cause several potential problems for I.V. residents and exacerbate parking problems.
“They’re going to be taking away about eight spaces, and it would slow down an emergency response vehicle,” Eggart said. “And they should have asked us about it, since we’re the people that have to live here.”
The county is aware of the impact this would have on the parking situation in I.V., Marshall’s assistant Mark Chaconas said, and sought to compensate for the loss parking by removing some red curbs that are no longer necessary. This includes curbs that were painted red for bus stops that have since been taken out of transit lines. However, Chaconas said that since the new red curbs have been painted, Marshall’s office has received negative feedback from the proposed project. This feedback resulted in the test islands’ termination.
“These [traffic-calming islands] have come up throughout the Master Plan project. This was a plan that Public Works felt was strongly needed to provide slower, safer streets. We presented it to the community a couple of times at GPAC [General Plan Advisory Committee] meetings and there was no opposition to the plan,” Chaconas said. “But since people have really voiced a concern in the last few days, Gail felt it would be best to pull the plan back and build something like it into the overall Master Plan project.”
Eggart also voiced his concern regarding the proposed trees in the islands.
“If they try to plant anything in [the island], it’s going to be destroyed,” he said.
The group of residents gathered nearly 200 signatures yesterday afternoon, but they also drew the attention of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol because they had initially placed couches in the center of the sketched island diamonds until IVFP officers asked them to remove them.
“[A Santa Barbara County Sheriff] asked us to move the couches. She said we could stand in the street but we couldn’t have the couches out there,” Eggart said. “She was nice about it, but some other officers weren’t as friendly. They told us it was a misdemeanor.”
The county is continuing to work on traffic-slowing devices throughout I.V., aside from the cancelled islands. This includes installing speed tables, which are essentially a large, wide speed bump. All these measures are the county’s response to a long-standing complaint that people drive fast and carelessly in I.V.
Chaconas said there were approximately 40 I.V. residents at the last GPAC meeting a week ago and when the issue of the proposed islands came up, there was no real opposition to them. Chaconas estimates the newly painted red curbs will be painted over white within the next week. In addition, the Public Works Dept. said that in its initial walk around through I.V., it estimated an opportunity to add 40-50 parking spots by simply eliminating the red curbs that are no longer necessary. This number could easily increase, Chaconas said, because these were just the curbs they noticed right away. With more investigation, more curbs could open up.
Chaconas said that despite the community’s rejection of a portion of the plan, the county is still at work in providing other safety measures. This includes the costly process of asking property owners to sell the 6-8 feet of property from the curb in order to install sidewalks. Chaconas also said he suggests residents take more of an active stance in community planning so the Master Plan can address all of the issues that affect residents.
GPAC is holding an open house at the Linda Vista Room in Francisco Torres on Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. They invite residents to come and discuss parking and transportation solutions for I.V.
Drew Mackie also contributed to this story.