Local residents and county planners held a two-day meeting this week to discuss the future of Isla Vista’s roads and transit system.
The Project Area Committee (PAC) and the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) held meetings on Wednesday and Thursday evening to discuss Isla Vista’s transportation and parking issues with members of the community. The meetings were focused on the I.V. Redevelopment and Master Plan presented by Opticos Design, the Berkeley-based firm hired to design a new plan for I.V. Wednesday night’s meeting focused on local parking, while Thursday’s meeting covered traffic circulation and street design.
Daniel Parolek of Opticos Design said the firm’s primary goals are to reduce the speed and congestion of automobile traffic, improve parking conditions and minimize automobile dependence by making transit more attractive.
“The major issues we need to address are transportation, parking and circulation,” Parolek said. “If we don’t deal with these issues now, we really can’t do much.”
The proposed plan to install parking meters in I.V.’s commercial “downtown” area was generally approved by members of the committee. Short-term green-curb parking was proposed as an alternative to parking meters, but was rejected due to the cost of enforcement.
Erin McCady, a UCSB student and I.V. resident, said she thinks the parking meters will reduce the demand for parking, and ultimately impact revenues for businesses on Pardall Road.
“The concern is to make more business, not less,” McCady said. “I’m not going to pay to park at Emerald when I can go to Blockbuster for free.”
The committee also showed support for the proposed residential parking permit program. The price of a permit will be less than $100 per year and will vary according to which neighborhood the permit is issued in. The PAC has not yet decided if it will limit the number of permits sold to the number of spaces available. Daytime permits will be available for visitors to I.V., and residents will be able to purchase temporary passes for family and guests. The purpose of the residential permit program is to discourage commuting students from parking in I.V. for the day and walking to campus.
Most members of the community in attendance at the meetings expressed opposition to the permit program due to the inconvenience for families and friends of residents. One alternative under consideration is a remote parking lot or structure with a shuttle system that runs between I.V. and the lot several times a day. Students at the meeting also expressed a desire to put pressure on the university to provide more parking.
Opticos proposed a “street hierarchy” that organizes I.V.’s streets into categories of “sidewalk streets,” “shared streets” and “special streets.” The sidewalk streets, primarily Sabado Tarde Road and Sueno Road, will have wide sidewalks to accommodate the amount of pedestrian traffic these streets receive. The shared streets will function almost exactly as they do now, with cars, bikes and pedestrians sharing the same roadway.
Parolek said the shared streets were incorporated in the proposal to maintain the current feel of I.V.
“Isla Vista is a very unique place,” Parolek said. “We want to continue to enhance and maintain this unique character.”
Janet Stich, another member of the committee, said she had concerns regarding the uneven distribution of traffic throughout I.V.
“However we do it, we should make every street equally as desirable to drive on so we don’t push all the traffic to one street and cause a traffic hazard,” Stich said.
A majority of the committee supported the removal of barriers at Camino Pescadero and Pardall Road, as well as at Del Playa Drive and Camino Pescadero. According to PAC members, the removal of these barriers would ease the flow of traffic from other streets and would draw more business to the downtown area.
Several traffic-calming measures were also considered, including narrower streets, modern roundabouts on El Colegio Road, rotaries -small-scale roundabouts – on Pardall Road and the Embarcadero loop, as well as mid-block “bump outs,” which are extensions of the sidewalk that make the street appear narrower. The committee decided to review further research on roundabouts and rotaries before making a final decision, but opposed the “bump outs” due to loss of parking spaces.