The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to postpone its decision to reject or approve the proposed Isla Vista parking plan until June 1, in response to a large turnout of concerned I.V. residents.
The televised meeting, which was held downtown at the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, lasted approximately four hours, including a three-hour public testimony period. Of the 80 I.V. community members who attended the meeting, 14 spoke against passing the proposed parking plan, 16 urged the board to delay their decision until the plan could be revised, and 23 spoke in favor of passing the parking plan.
“I really appreciate and admire that so many of you have taken the time to come down here today,” said Gail Marshall, 3rd District supervisor. “This is what democracy looks like.”
Those who spoke in support of the plan included I.V. business owners and the majority of UCSB students present. Opponents of the plan included the I.V. chapter of Surfrider and the Sierra Club. I.V. residents and homeowners, however, spoke on both sides of the issue.
During the first half-hour of the meeting, John McInnes, county innovative programs manager, gave a brief overview of the proposed parking plan and possible revisions. Over the last several weeks, the county has received approximately 100 e-mails in response to the I.V. parking plan, the vast majority of which have been opposed to the plan.
McInnes said the County has recently been working to manipulate the plan to lower the cost of the residential permits to $100, as opposed to $125 or $195. The county planning commission suggested that the cost of the permit could potentially be lowered by reducing the number of enforcement staff from four to two employees and offsetting the cost with revenue generated from the meter program suggested in the plan. McInnes said approximately $150,000 in meter revenues would be used to lower the cost of the permits to $100 for both cars registered in Santa Barbara County and other counties.
Brooks Firestone, 3rd District supervisor-elect, who spoke against passing the parking plan, said his main problem was with the permit cost.
“Although the substance of this plan is sound – and Isla Vista does need such a plan – as is presented, it is too expensive and needs work,” Firestone said. “Accordingly, I urge a delay of this today.”
Firestone compared the plan to the “more efficient” parking systems in other areas of California that have similar parking problems.
“There is no identical college town such as Isla Vista,” Firestone said. “But other campuses have much more economical resident parking plans. Davis is $10 per year. Berkeley is $30 per year.”
The 30 people who opposed the present version of the plan were allowed to speak first. After that portion of the public comment lasted one hour and 45 minutes, two of the five board members had to leave the meeting due to prior commitments. Before the two members departed, the board agreed to postpone its decision until its next meeting June 1.
Even after flaws in the plan’s design had been addressed, the majority of those who spoke in favor of the plan said they still support it. Kelley Neumann, sophomore environmental studies major, asked the board to approve the plan as soon as possible.
“Yes, there are problems with this plan, but let’s get the ball rolling,” Neumann said. “I don’t want to have to wait for another plan. I urge you to consider this as a preliminary step. Let’s not just put this off.”
Bryan Brown, a PAC/GPAC member, asked that county planners clarify their intentions for the alternative transportation program that would accompany the residential parking permit plan.
“If you vote for [the plan], which we believe you will, you have to in the back of your minds be thinking about alternative transportation,” Brown said.
During the public testimony portion of the meeting, several students who spoke in support of the plan raised signs that read, “Give us buses, not parking tickets,” “We want alternative transportation” and “I.V. needs a parking plan.”
“We can’t wait for 10 more years. We need to solve this now. It is not only beneficial to the future of I.V.; it is essential to the future of I.V.,” Surfrider member Eric Cummings said.
The supervisors said county staff would be responsible for looking at Tuesday’s comments and potentially make revised recommendations by their next board meeting. Marshall said she wanted the board to be prepared to make a decision on the plan at its next meeting.
“There is a lot of information that the staff has to look into,” Marshall said. “I hope that the clerk’s office and the chair will make sure that on June 1 we will allow ample time so we can really get some recommendations going.”
Marshall said the meter portion of the parking plan, which has seen little opposition, should be considered separately.
“The residential parking permit program is going to take more work, but I think we can begin to work very seriously and quickly on the parking meter program downtown,” Marshall said. “I think that is important.”