Residents of Isla Vista and Goleta met at Embarcadero Hall last night to complain about the proposed environmental impact report (EIR) for UCSB’s portion of the Ellwood-Devereux Open Space Plan.
The 40 people that attended the meeting were nearly uniform in their dissatisfaction with the draft report, which gauged the environmental impact of the university’s proposed residential development, including the construction of 236 faculty and 151 family student housing units. Residents protested possible traffic congestion, the impact on natural habitats and vernal pools, scenic view reduction and population density.
Ellwood-Devereux is an 800-acre area located west of Isla Vista, containing undeveloped coastal mesas as well as a large monarch butterfly preserve. A private development company, Comstock Homes, currently owns the area, but UCSB, the city of Goleta and Santa Barbara County have collaborated to pool their resources and collect donations to purchase the land for $20 million, in addition to a land swap. Once attained, the 2.25-mile stretch of the Ellwood-Devereux area will be divided into three zones for the university, the county and the city to each pursue according to their own management plans.
Diane Conn, a member of Save Ellwood Shores, said that the university’s EIR was drastically incomplete compared to the detailed EIRs that have been released by the city of Goleta and the county.
“We have been given a woefully inadequate EIR that has failed to properly designate wetlands. When you compare it to the other two EIRs, it doesn’t tell the full story.” Conn said. “We need the tools to adequately weigh the benefits and costs of development.”
Julie Love, member of the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, also said the EIR was insufficient in measuring the plan’s potential environmental impacts.
“There needs to be a re-evaluation of the impact on the snowy plover,” Love said. “Increased traffic will negatively affect the plover. The draft EIR doesn’t address what measures will be taken if their measures fail.”
Ruth Bartz, an Isla Vista homeowner, said she is concerned about the two parking lots that would be constructed on Camino Majorca, one of which would be located directly adjacent to her house. The parking lots will be constructed in order to accommodate the mesa’s visitors.
“The [proposed] parking lot will be placed 25 feet from my bedroom.” Bartz said. “The parking lot will degrade my lifestyle, my property value and my health.”
Steven Gross, chair of the Council on Faculty Issues and Awards, defended the university’s development plan.
“The need for a housing project is an urgent necessity to UCSB.” Gross said. “Many of the faculty are concerned with the environment, but we have a problem – it’s called affordable housing. Faculty cannot come into Santa Barbara right now and find housing.”
Mike Jacoby, spokesman for the Cannon Green/Phelps Neighborhood Coalition, said the need for faculty housing is understandable, but the EIR fails to include several important construction concerns.
“The North Parcel [of the area] exists on a flood plain; construction could cause considerable flooding,” Jacoby said. “The EIR doesn’t address the health hazards from 42 months of construction, and we feel that the visual impact analysis is completely misleading.”
Tye Simpson, director of campus planning and design, said comments made during the meeting would be taken into consideration when the final draft of the plan is drawn.