To call Isla Vista a dilapidated, overcrowded and overpriced slum would be, well, a bit of an understatement. The phrase “student ghetto” comes to mind. Apparently the technical term is “blighted.”
There are no easy answers as to how these problems should be addressed, but now we have a plan. The official title, at this point, is “Initiation Draft Isla Vista Master Plan: A Specific Plan.” Though little in this plan will affect students now attending UCSB, there are some programs, such as the residential parking permit plan for Isla Vista, which are already in the works. More on that later.
In 1999, the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) and Santa Barbara County Planning and Development (P&D) began discussing Isla Vista’s present and future. UCSB, Santa Barbara County and the IVRPD all signed on in 2000 to fund and develop a master plan. Together, they spent tens of thousands of dollars to find a consultant to help develop this master plan. They chose the Berkeley-based company Opticos Design to do so. And then gave them more money to develop it.
Of course, these groups alone couldn’t be allowed to determine the future of all Isla Vista. A thirteen-member Project Area Committee and General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC), comprised of residents, property owners, business owners and representatives of community organizations, was formed to review plans. And that’s about all the power it has – to make suggestions.
Much of the plan focuses on decreasing automobile traffic through Isla Vista. This could cause problems; Isla Vista isn’t exactly a self-sufficient community. The only grocery stores are grossly overpriced and try to pass lawn clippings off as vegetables, and even those will go bad in a day or two. There’s the Isla Vista Food Co-op, which is also grossly overpriced, but more deservedly so.
The most realistic option that is proposed for decreasing automobile traffic involves lessening the need for Isla Vista residents to own a car. This is the car-sharing program. The program would allow members of the program to rent a car for a short time, paying only by mileage and hours used.
Since Isla Vista residents live close enough to UCSB to be able to walk, bike or skate to campus, many of the UCSB students have cars that they only use every once in a while. If these cars could be eliminated from the parking fiasco, many more spaces would become available to those who decide to keep their cars. Those who didn’t would be able to have the freedom of owning a car while not having to worry about insurance or the upkeep and maintenance that owning a car demands.
As of now, there are very few soon-to-be-completed projects. Numerous good intentions, such as prettying up Pardall Road and making two- or three-story buildings with businesses on the bottom and residential space on top, building better housing and cooler businesses and building all those sidewalks that are missing which drive heavy pedestrian traffic to drunkenly stumble along the streets.
How that’s all going to get paid for is a little uncertain at present, and there is repeated mention of a 20- to 30-year time frame on many improvements. But one can’t expect this all to come overnight.
There are certainly some gems in there that the county will be able to pull off, possibly even in a decent time frame. There’s a good deal of talk about narrowing the streets; sounds shitty, I know. The intent is not to torture residents, but to encourage motorists to slow their unconscionable speeding through Isla Vista in a way more effective than speed limits. Which is necessary. It would take no more than a skateboarder rolling out of his driveway from behind the cover of a car to cause a disaster when some maniac is blowing down an I.V. road at 35 mph.
Another idea to slow traffic is to install roundabouts at key intersections like Pardall and Camino Pescadero and the intersections near family homes and I.V. elementary where children may be walking to school.
There are some projects that could be getting started as soon as this spring. Like the residential parking permit program. The county Redevelopment Agency would figure out a system to make all Isla Vista streets permit parking only, with provisions for visitors, guests and daily parking passes.
The funds raised from these permits would allegedly raise money for street maintenance, public transit and pedestrian and bicycle improvements. Realistically, a good deal of it would be spent on patrolling and ticketing offenders. Oh, and purchasing a permit wouldn’t exactly guarantee the permit holder a spot. But it would make an even more competitive press for apartment’s on-site spaces. Prices are not included in the plan, but it does claim that low-income subsidies would be offered.
This program would prevent commuters to UCSB from cluttering up the street parking, but doesn’t leave them other realistic options. Not everyone can buy an on-campus parking permit. If public transportation were improved, as proposed in the plan, this issue could be taken care of. However, it would still create a massive inconvenience for more or less every student who owns a car.
As far as actually fixing the parking crunch, all they could come up with was adding about 23 spaces on Pardall where there are now red curbs, and then putting meters on street parking in front of the businesses on Pardall and the Embarcaderos. This is another project to be implemented in the near future.
The least controversial of these soon-to-be-started projects is adding trees along most of the streets. The idea is that they may slow traffic down a bit. Also, they would look pretty.
This is all just the beginning of the I.V. Master Plan, and if residential permits sound ridiculous to you, or if you’d just like to talk to those in charge and maybe have a little input on the whole business, you can attend the next PAC/GPAC meeting on Sept. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church at 6550 Picasso Rd.