On May 18, the County Board of Supervisors will discuss a parking plan for Isla Vista. For those who register their car in Santa Barbara County, the annual cost will be $125 per year to park in IV; those who don’t register must pay $195 a year.

Who benefits from this plan? Why is it so expensive? And why have a parking program at all?

Around 40 percent of the 14,300 who live in Isla Vista proper – the area south of El Colegio Road and west of Ocean Road – don’t own cars. They will benefit the most. The parking program would provide up to $300,000 a year in new money that could pay for a car-sharing program, bus service upgrades, and sidewalks, among other things.

The carless have been subsidizing car usage in I.V. forever. About $300,000 of I.V. tax money is spent annually by the county to fix streets in I.V. That money rarely benefits the carless. Just look at the absence of sidewalks and bike lanes in I.V. Money is spent just to fix the streets for cars.

The other 60 percent of I.V.’s residents, those with cars, are furious about the parking plan. Nobody wants to pay for something they now receive for free.

Opponents have noted that permits elsewhere in coastal California, from Hermosa Beach to Berkeley, cost about $30 a year – way less than the I.V. plan. The real problem is that most county residents think I.V. is unworthy, and so the County diverts $1.1 million of I.V. transportation tax money each year, and spends it in places like Santa Ynez and Montecito. That figure is from a 2001 county report.

For comparison, the total cost of the I.V. parking program is $1.3 million per year.

An I.V. parking permit will depose any supervisor who insists on spending I.V. tax money in I.V. Exploitation like this is common in the ghettos of the world, from Soweto to South Bronx to I.V.

If we want to improve I.V., we must arrange our own financing and staffing, and fight like devils forever to keep new revenue spent locally. We must economize. The budget for the current plan calls for seven new workers to be hired, at a cost of $84,120 per year per worker. That number of workers agrees with on-campus staffing levels, but the cost is high; $60,000 is more reasonable, including all benefits and add-on costs.

That salary change would drop the permit fee from $125 to $89 per year. Cutting out one of the new workers would lower the permit fee by another $13.

Further, if county supervisors would commit to spending half of the money from I.V. parking tickets to paying for the plan, then the cost of the permit would drop to $50. The other half could go for improvements for the carless. The supervisors could make this commitment for the 2004-05 budget right now.

Why bother? Between 500 and 1400 non-I.V. residents park in the 3000 spots on our streets. Expelling these interloping cars would return street parking to I.V. residents, and make it significantly easier for IV residents to park.

If a cost of $50 a year still bothers you, I’d suggest going carless. It costs $2700 a year to operate a fully owned car, according to AAA and insurance companies. Use a few hundred bucks to equip a bicycle with good baskets for shopping trips out to Albertson’s and Costco, and use your UCSB bus pass for trips downtown on the 24X and the 11. When the I.V./UCSB car-sharing program is up and running, use its local rent-a-cars when you really need a car. You could save as much as $2000 a year, and of course help the environment.

And if you really hate the I.V. parking program, bankrupt it. How? If we all go carless, then the parking program won’t get a single cent of revenue.

Harry Nelson is a physics professor.