The safety and aesthetics of the proposed San Clemente Graduate Student Housing Project dominated a meeting Thursday night at Embarcadero Hall.
UCSB displayed the design of the graduate student housing complex planned to be built on the south side of Storke Field along El Colegio Road. Santa Barbara County also presented its plans to improve El Colegio Road. The Environmental Impact Report scoping meeting was intended to allow the public to suggest additional issues that the university and the county should investigate. UCSB must complete an EIR on the effects the new complex could have before construction can begin.
“We anticipate the EIR to be available for [the public] to review by the first of the year,” said Jennifer Metz, senior planner of the Office of Campus Planning and Design.
The current plans call for 278 three-story housing units to be built, for a total of 976 bed spaces. Many community members and local business owners at the meeting said the building’s height would block residents’ view of the mountains and Storke Field. Craig Geyer, a local business owner and chair of the Isla Vista Project Area Committee, refers to the housing units as the “Clemente Wall.”
“It’s basically raping the aesthetics of Isla Vista,” he said. “To me, there is no absolutely no reason to build San Clemente that close to Isla Vista.”
Storke Field is currently used for student recreation, such as club sports. According to Director of Campus Planning and Design Tye Simpson, although there would be a loss of 3 to 13 percent of the Storke Field recreation space, 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.
The county is helping to plan improvements to El Colegio Road. Jamie Goldstein, project manager of the Isla Vista Master Plan, said the county is looking to install six roundabouts at intersections along El Colegio Road.
Some community members expressed skepticism about the roundabouts.
“Roundabouts are confusing to people who aren’t used to them, especially young drivers, which is what the majority of the students are,” said Kristen LaBonte, a Davidson Library staff member.
Even if the aesthetic and safety concerns of the public are completely addressed, it is not guaranteed that San Clemente will be completely filled with graduate students. UCSB plans to set rent for graduate students at 85 percent of the units’ market value. If the units are not filled with graduate students, upper-division undergraduates would probably be allowed to live in the apartments, said Chuck Haines of Housing and Residential Services.
John LaBonte, ecology, evolutionary and marine biology graduate student, said even with the lower rent, some of his colleagues might not want to live so close to I.V.
“It might be difficult to attract grad students to a place so close to Isla Vista,” LaBonte said. “So I think the prices should be lower to accommodate for that.”