At a public meeting Thursday, community members and Santa Barbara County public agencies will have the chance to talk to UCSB and the county about environmental issues the university should investigate before beginning construction on the San Clemente Graduate Student Housing Project.

The UCSB Office of Campus Planning and Design and the County of Santa Barbara Planning & Development Dept. plan to host an environmental impact report (EIR) scoping meeting Thursday at 7 p.m in Embarcadero Hall on Embarcadero Del Norte. Currently, the Notice of Preparation for the project states that the university plans to study how aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, water quality, land use, noise, recreation, traffic and waste services would be affected by the new housing units.

“[This meeting is meant] to get input from the public and agencies about what we should study [in addition] for the EIR,” said Jennifer Metz, senior planner of the Office of Campus Planning and Design.

UC Regents approved the housing project intended for single graduate students in May 2002, along with its estimated cost of $116 million. UCSB hopes to ease graduate student housing costs by adding the 278-unit housing facility. The units are planned to provide 976 bed spaces. A multi-level parking structure with 776 parking spaces is also included in the plan. The new residential complex would be located at the south end of Storke Field that runs along El Colegio Road, between the tennis courts and Los Carneros Road.

“The way to consider it is [the buildings would occupy the length of] three blocks of Isla Vista,” Director of Campus Planning and Design Tye Simpson said.

In addition to building the housing units, Santa Barbara County is proposing improvements to El Colegio Rd. as part of the project. The Notice of Preparation states the improvements include the construction of roundabouts at the intersections of El Colegio and Camino Del Sur, Los Carneros Road, Camino Pescadero, Embarcadero Del Mar, and Embarcadero Del Norte. UCSB would like to include an additional roundabout at the intersection of El Colegio Rd. and Stadium Road.

“It would be a dramatic change for the character of El Colegio Road,” Simpson said.

Before construction can begin, however, the university must find out what impact the construction could have on the environment. The university will prepare an EIR, and, once completed, the UC Regents must approve the report before UCSB can lay the first stone. Metz said the EIR should be complete and in the hands of the UC Regents by April 2004.

Storke Field is currently used by some UCSB intramural sports and club sports teams for practice and games. There has been some concern that the new housing units would impede the athletic activities that take place on the field. Simpson said the San Clemente Housing Project would eliminate 3 to 13 percent of the athletic field space of Storke Field. But he said the project includes a proposal to convert the open space behind Lot 38, located between Harder Stadium and the greenhouses, into athletic fields to compensate for the space the housing units would occupy.

“My understanding is that the utility of the field would not change, as the number of fields would remain the same,” Simpson said. “The intention was to be a slight reduction in area, but not in utility.”

UCSB Housing and Residential Services Executive Director Willie Brown said the construction for the project is scheduled to start in January 2005, and is scheduled to be completed by Fall 2007. He said the university currently has no further plans for construction on Storke Field.

“Right now in our housing plans, we don’t have plans to build any more [buildings in the Storke Field area], but that does not preclude any future plans,” Brown said.