Over a dozen students and residents who spoke out against a plan to require permits for parking in Isla Vista did not sway the Project Area Committee and General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC), which voted overwhelmingly to approve the plan at its meeting Wednesday night.
The eight-to-one vote followed a presentation of the parking plan by staff from the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. and nearly two hours of public comment – the majority of which expressed discontent with the proposed $195 cost of an annual permit and a perceived lack of opportunity for student input in the plan’s design.
While the meeting began with a crowd of approximately 70 people at the Francisco Torres Residence Hall, most of those in attendance left immediately after the PAC/GPAC voted to adopt the parking plan. Several stayed to continue lobbying county staff and PAC/GPAC members during a five-minute recess.
“We use our cars because it’s convenient. We have to get to work. We have to go to work to pay for rising school fees and high rent,” said Jaime Marks, a UCSB junior film studies major. “These are our homes, not events that we need to pay for.”
Other students said paying nearly $200 to park in front of their own houses was “ridiculous,” and that the permit program would not solve I.V.’s parking crunch because it aims to protect resident spaces from commuters during the day, even though parking is more difficult to find at night.
Jason Everitt, UCSB Inter-Fraternity Council president, said the permit program will not solve parking concentration problems. Since the permits do not guarantee spaces, people will still want to park as close as possible to their homes resulting in the same competition for prime spaces at night that currently exists,
“People would rather drive around for 20 minutes [looking for a space] than pay to drive around for 20 minutes,” Everitt said.
Several residents blamed UCSB for I.V.’s parking problem and demanded the university do more to alleviate the problem.
“The university has used I.V. as a parking lot for as long as I can remember,” said Jenny Jett, a longtime I.V. resident. “Wouldn’t that be funny if the university opened up its parking lots for free?”
Following comments from the public, Bryan Brown, a PAC/GPAC member who represents cooperative housing in I.V., lashed out at students who showed up at such a late stage in the planning process. He said students often get “thrown to the wolves” in terms of not having their interests looked after, but if students had gotten involved in the early stages of the parking plan’s design, they could have made a difference.
“To the students that have never been [to a PAC/GPAC] meeting before: Where the hell have you been? This can’t be ‘We don’t want to pay, give us something else,'” Brown said. “What do we need to do? When we try to do something, no one shows up.”
Mike Fooley, the only member to oppose the plan on the grounds that the parking permits were too expensive for I.V.’s lower-income families and undocumented immigrants, told students in attendance that there are two student representatives on the PAC/GPAC – neither of which were present at the meeting. He said the student representatives should be held accountable by their constituents.
“I’ve sat here in empty rooms,” Fooley said. “Everyone that came here tonight spoke in plain, common sense that we needed to hear months ago.”
The PAC/GPAC-approved parking plan requires residents purchase a permit for parking anywhere in I.V., but it preserves free but time-limited parking for beach access on Camino Majorca. It also creates a pay-by-space zone covering I.V.’s downtown district, including parts of Pardall Road and the Embarcadero loop. In all areas west of Camino Pescadero, the plan allows for one hour of free parking.
John McGuiness, a county employee who presented the plan to the PAC/GPAC, said annual resident permits could be purchased online and 24-hour guest permits – costing $3 for the first 15 permits per resident and $7 for each additional permit – could be picked up from a local parking office. For a slightly higher cost, residential permits could be purchased on a quarterly basis, and special price breaks will be available to those able to demonstrate financial need.
McGuiness said primary goals of the plan include freeing up the roughly 600 to 1,600 spaces occupied daily by UCSB commuters who park in I.V. and then walk to school to avoid paying on-campus parking fees, in addition to increasing traffic to local businesses by facilitating quicker space turnover. He said the plan also aims to prioritize space availability for residents.
Before hearing from students at the meeting who said they were not informed about the plan and never had a chance to contribute during planning stages, McGuiness said the plan’s design incorporated feedback from a multitude of local groups, including the Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board and the Surfrider Foundation.
“This has been a great process in that we’ve got a lot of input from a lot of people in the community,” McGuiness said. “This is about a project that we hope will work for everyone … We met again with the groups to get further input, further feedback, further comment on the design. We got a lot of input from a lot of people from a lot of interest groups in the community.”
Although the PAC/GPAC adopted the plan, it still needs approval from the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and the California Coastal Commission before it can be implemented. A board of supervisors hearing is scheduled for May 4.