As you may not be aware, Santa Barbara County staff is diligently putting the final touches on a managed parking program coming to all public streets in your neighborhood next fall. That’s right, the Isla Vista Residential Permit Parking Program is on the home stretch, and with it comes parking meters in the commercial district and $195 parking passes for the rest of I.V. wherever you can find an open spot. If you have visitors, a permit will run them three bucks, and they’ll be hunting for a spot too. Sound crazy? Well, it all starts with good intentions.
The theory is that residents will be discouraged from bringing their cars if charged for parking passes, thus freeing up that choice spot in front of your pad. All those students who come into I.V. to avoid paying a costly UCSB permit to park on campus will also be unable to park in I.V., freeing up that spot too.
While there are good intentions for a fair, convenient and sustainable program, the plan is flawed on multiple levels. When students purchase parking passes, they are not buying parking spots, rather they are paying for “rights” to spots that may or may not exist, depending on the congestion of the area. Therefore, the plan is not, in fact, as convenient as some of the members of the proposal may claim. Second, the “sustainable theory” is a myth as well. Undeniably, charging students for passes means fewer cars. The subsequent belief is that they will therefore turn to alternative forms of transportation such as bikes and buses in order to conduct their daily lives. If this were to happen, I, personally, possibly might endorse a good portion of this plan. However, since no portion of the revenue obtained from this program is being funneled into improving the forms of alternative transportation, using these alternatives may not be an option, and therefore may not be “sustainable” and “convenient.” In addition, revenue raised from the dozens of tickets that will be likely issued every hour of the day will go into the county general fund. Since the money will raise substantial revenue, I’d hope that money would stay in Isla Vista for much needed improvements. Not a chance.
A lot of my disdain for the program is personal, but I consider myself a relatively average student at UCSB. Financially, I am “stuck in the middle.” I receive loans, but not complete financial aid. I have to pay for books, school, food, rent and concert tickets. I cannot afford to add the extra burden of paying for the “rights” to a parking spot to this list of purchases. If this new plan goes through, I would opt to take the bus. But the bus routes end at 6 p.m. and my job finishes at midnight.
The problem is multifold, but I will crystallize it down to two main issues. First, there is a structural problem with the Isla Vista Project Area/General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC), the group that has been creating the I.V. Master Plan and with it, the Residential Parking Permit Program. This committee has representation that does not reflect the makeup of Isla Vista. While there is a necessary landlord and business representative, there is only one student representative on the committee that represents student interests. As you can imagine, this student representative finds himself in the minority and is outvoted on issues. While the current rep, Chandler Briggs, a caring, tenacious, informed, intelligent and aggressive student, might be the best person of the job, he is outnumbered, and that leaves all the I.V. students underrepresented.
Student apathy is also a problem. Here’s where you must ask yourselves: Have you heard about this proposal? If so, I hope you’re willing to come out and say whether you support something like this, because it affects you. And if not, your lack of information is most likely a product of the fact that students have not been adequately informed about these events that have taken place for the past year. Time to get informed and get involved.
The next PAC/GPAC meeting to discuss the parking permit program is today at 6:30 p.m. in the Linda Vista Room in Francisco Torres Residence Hall.
Ginger Gonzaga is chair of the UCSB Public Safety Advisory Committee.