For the first time in decades, UCSB is full of the sounds of the Village people. Manzanita Village people, that is.

The new series of residence halls, which house a total of 800 students, opened doors to students in September. Housing and Residential Services Director Wilfred Brown said the total cost of the project was about $65 million. It is the first residence hall to be built at UCSB since 1968 and was handled by the DesignARC architectural firm.

“We have been working on the job for almost five years and are quite excited with the final result,” DesignARC principal architect Michael Holliday said. “Manzanita will be used as a model for the entire West Coast’s student housing.”

The Manzanita Village Project has not been without its setbacks, though.

The fragile habitats surrounding Manzanita Village almost prevented the residence halls from ever being constructed. During the preliminary planning sessions, the project was halted and completely redesigned when distance requirements concerning area wetlands were brought to the attention of the university.

The first building site proposed for Manzanita Village was surrounded by several vernal pools, the protected seasonal puddle-like depressions that are the habitat of endangered species such as fairy shrimp, delta green ground beetles and western spadefoot toads, along with many endangered plants. Many of the animals that live in vernal pools cannot survive anywhere else.

Manzanita Village Project plans had to be changed after designs placed buildings too close to the vernal pools, according to state wetlands guidelines. Planners followed federal wetlands guidelines, but failed to check state guidelines, which require structures to be built no closer than 100 feet from the vernal pools. According to federal guidelines, a site can be developed if the wetlands are relocated within the area; however, the California Coastal Commission requires that developers maintain and protect all existing wetlands near the building site.

The building sites were relocated and, in order to further protect the wetlands in the area, boardwalks, viewing terraces and bike trails surround the complex, restricting access to the fragile habitats.

In order to maintain those protected ecosystems, the Lagoon Park Project was created. The Lagoon Park Project is a habitat restoration project funded by the Manzanita Village Project that works to remove non-native species to create and maintain a natural habitat for the native species that live in and around the lagoon area such as the endangered western marine pygmy blue butterfly.

Other delays to the project were caused by vandals.

In April 2001, an unknown suspect broke in and vandalized the Manzanita Village construction site with anti-Semitic graffiti. Orange graffiti was discovered on several buildings in the northeast section of the village and a portable toilet was overturned. Police listed the incidence as a hate crime due to the nature of the graffiti.

Last summer there was another vandalism incident that caused extensive water damage, Holliday said. “Someone snuck into one of the Manzanita buildings, taped up the drains, turned up the fire sprinklers and consequently flooded the building.”

The cost of repairing the water damage was $200,000 but the project was still completed on time, Brown said.

Manzanita Village consists of 11 three-story houses and six four-story houses, as well as a resource center and a multipurpose center. Each of the residence halls, called houses, has a laundry room, kitchen and study lounge. The village also provides 160 handicap-accessible rooms, 54 of which are designed for double occupancy. There are about seven differently sized room models, and it is much easier to set up rooms in Manzanita than in San Miguel or San Rafael, junior English major and Manzanita Village resident assistant Sheveeta Shephard said.

Senior sociology major Linda Tran, who lives in Manzanita Village, said, “It’s different – very spacious, comfortable and designed like Ikea.”

As part of the project, Carrillo Dining Commons underwent extensive renovations. It now sports a new floor plan and “restaurant style” dining. Carrillo was scheduled to open Spring Quarter, but was not open to students until orientation sessions this summer.

In addition, Housing and Residential Services is hoping to build another structure at Manzanita Village in the future. The building, tentatively called Loma Paloma, will be a recreation room with more lounges, Shephard said. Every house has a lounge, but does not have recreation space. The Loma Paloma structure would provide space needed to accommodate recreational activities.

“Manzanita Village is very jolly. It’s very new age, but it will look very crappy in 20 years, but it’s very beautiful right now. It’s very representational of the age we live in,” Loie Hollowell, sophomore College of Creative Studies art major and Manzanita Village resident said.

DesignARC designed Manzanita to make housing much less institutional, introduce a more “homey” and comfortable environment for students, and make it much more affordable, Holliday said.

“The 17 residential buildings were designed on a smaller scale, where the rooms are airy and spacious, and the views take advantage of our wonderful mountain and ocean surroundings,” Chancellor Henry Yang said. “The village’s study rooms, lounges, balconies and kitchens further enhance the quality of living in Manzanita.”