Around a dozen members of UCSB Associated Students met with a Santa Barbara County planner Friday to voice concerns regarding a proposed permit plan that would require Isla Vista residents to pay for residential street parking.
Students said they were against the high cost of the permit fee and wanted to know where revenue generated from the program would go. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the low number of students aware of the program’s pending approval and blamed the county for not doing enough to inform local residents.
The plan would establish a residential parking permit program throughout Isla Vista. Permits would cost an annual fee of $125 for cars registered in the county of Santa Barbara, and $195 for cars not registered in the county. Non-I.V. residents would be required to purchase a guest permit that would cost $3 per day for the first 15 guest permits issued and $7 per day for each guest permit purchased after that.
In addition, the plan includes the installation of parking meters in downtown I.V. on Pardall Road and the Embarcadero Loop. According to the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency (SBCRA), the parking meters would create more parking spaces for customers who support the small businesses in the area.
Jamie Goldstein, SBCRA project manager, said parking reforms are necessary because Isla Vista parking traffic has increased in recent years, though the population has not. He said the rate of automobile ownership in I.V. has significantly increased to 80 percent of all undergraduate students.
UCSB has also increased fees for parking on campus, resulting in many students being unable or unwilling to pay. Goldstein said these increased fees have led more daytime commuters to park in I.V., then walk to campus to save money. In addition, Goldstein said residents from the on-campus Manzanita Village Residence Halls often take up I.V. spaces.
Goldstein said the parking permit fee is not a substantial amount of money in comparison to the total cost of car maintenance including car payments, insurance and gas.
“Fifteen dollars a month for the permit isn’t that much in the bigger scheme of things,” he said.
Students at the meeting disagreed, saying the parking permit fee would be a significant added financial burden when coupled with the high cost of local rental housing.
“What everyone is mad about is that you have to pay to park in front of your own house,” senior political science major Adam Ulfers said.
According to the SBCRA, the money generated from the proposed parking meters would go to improve traffic and parking efficiency in the metered district of downtown I.V.
The money generated from the cost of permits, approximately $726,000 per year, would go to support the costs of the residence parking permit program, which includes equipment for purchasing permits and enforcement. Goldstein said no revenue would be gained from the cost of the permits because by law, the system must be designed to be self-sufficient and cannot make a profit.
However, he said the money generated from fines and tickets for violations of the parking conditions would go to the county’s general fund and would be re-appropriated later.
“We’re shocked at the amount of money the county receives from I.V. road funds and spends elsewhere,” said UCSB physics Professor Harry Nelson, co-chair of the I.V. Action Group. “We must make the county explain where the money is going.”
Goldstein suggested the creation of a nonbinding statement of intent that would require the county to declare what percentage of funds would be re-appropriated to I.V.
Goldstein also said the SBCRA has spent thousands of dollars on an outreach program dedicated to informing students about the parking initiative. He said the SBCRA has been trying to work with UCSB students and said that 90 percent of all student concerns that were previously brought to its attention were addressed.
“This plan does not have to be set in stone,” Goldstein said. “We are willing to listen.”
Community voices are vital to the plan’s implementation and success, he said.
“We are at a unique opportunity to address these I.V. issues, but without support, it has the chance to die on the vine,” Goldstein said.
A.S. president-elect Cervin Morris said he rejects the claim that the SBCRA has tried to inform students about the program and to get them involved.
“The average student just doesn’t know,” Morris said. “If thousands of dollars have been spent on outreach, you have to ask, was it spent efficiently?”
Morris said he and many other students are upset with the lack of student understanding of the parking program and that he would make the initiative’s defeat one of his first priorities as A.S. president.
“[We will] organize as many students as possible to vocalize that they are against this and motivate them to lobby against it,” Morris said.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will meet May 18 to consider approving the proposed parking plan. The meeting is open to the public and will include a period for public comment.