Time has run out for free street parking in Isla Vista.
As early as summer of 2005, the county plans to implement a residential parking permit program aimed at easing Isla Vista’s notoriously crowded curbsides. The required permits will cost $95 annually for cars registered in Santa Barbara County and $150 annually for cars registered outside the county.
The plan, approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on June 15 after a wave of public comment twice postponed the decision, also includes the installation of parking meters in Isla Vista’s downtown district to help thwart UCSB commuters who park in Isla Vista to avoid on-campus fees.
While residential permits faced significant student and resident opposition when the Project Area Committee and General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC) initially approved the plan in April 2004, the revised version adopted by the supervisors attempts to address concerns regarding high permit cost, coastal accessibility and the use of citation revenue.
Third District Supervisor Gail Marshall, who represents a district that includes Isla Vista, said the board undertook a major effort to incorporate suggested plan improvements, but she still considers the plan a work in progress.
“I think we went a long way to address the majority of concerns of people who had concerns,” Marshall said.
Of primary concern to the dozens of people who spoke out at the PAC/GPAC’s April 13 meeting and the board of supervisors meeting on May 18 was the initially proposed $195 annual permit fee for cars registered outside of the county.
By reducing the number of parking enforcement officers from four to two persons, John McInnes, county innovative programs manager, said county staff was able to reduce the $195 cost to $150 and the cost for cars registered within the county to $95.
Since the residential parking plan is designed not to make a profit, in accordance with state law,
McInnes said the permit cost is directly dependent on the program’s $727,266 operating cost. He said cutting the two parking enforcement officers reduced the program’s operating cost, which lowered the final permit cost. Under the new revisions, the cost of guest permits also decreased to $3 each and residents will be allowed to purchase an unlimited number.
Marshall said she has mixed feelings about the lowered prices because if the plan is too cheap compared to what UCSB charges for annual on campus parking – around $400 – it might not deter university commuters from finding a way to park in Isla Vista.
“It’s a tough one because we don’t want to let [the permit plan] be abused because we’re charging so little…” Marshall said, “But at the same time we don’t want to break anyone’s back.”
However, incoming Associated Students President Cervin Morris, who spoke out publicly against the plan’s high cost at April’s PAC/GPAC meeting, said he is strongly opposed to the board’s recent revision.
He said the permit cost for cars registered outside the county is still too high, since the majority of students who the plan will affect have cars registered in their home counties, not Santa Barbara County.
“Who registers their car here?” Morris said. “Everybody’s coming from a different place.”
Morris said he does not think it is a coincidence that the board postponed their approval decision until after the majority of students had left for summer break.
“[The plan] is just a way for the county to get money out of the students,” Morris said.
Scott Bull, of Isla Vista Surfrider and the Shoreline Preservation Fund, said vocal student opposition helped secure more spaces to be designated for coastal access under the newly adopted version of the parking plan.
“We made the county realize how important beach access is to the students and residents of Isla Vista,” Bull said. “We sent [the board of supervisors] over 100 e-mails in just a few days – all on just the coastal access issue.”
In addition to the 65 spaces in a dirt parking lot on Camino Majorca currently used by surfers and other beach-goers to access Coal Oil Point and Sands Beach, the new plan adds 41 more free spaces and an additional five metered spaces.
Joy Hufschmid, a member of the PAC/GPAC and a county public works engineer, said the five metered spaces will be located at the south end of the Embarcadero loop and will allow four-hour maximum parking. The other 41 spaces include 20 free spaces at the intersection of Camino Lindo and Del Playa Drive and four free spaces at each of the four eastern beach access staircases on DP.
Bull, who helped organize several on-campus strategy meetings for students interested in suggesting plan revisions to the supervisors, said he is excited about the group’s success in affecting the plan’s final version, calling the newly adopted plan a “tremendous improvement” over the original passed by the PAC/GPAC.
“We’ve worked in good faith with the county for the past six months,” Bull said. “We got recognition of the fact that there were a lot of flaws in the plan and brought to light more opinions, more hurdles… they realized they underestimated the importance of coastal access.”
McInnes said under the new plan, the board of supervisors has agreed to earmark all citation revenue generated from meter and permit enforcement for transportation improvements in Isla Vista. He said county staff estimates such revenue could exceed $300,000 annually, which could be used to pay for more bike racks, expanded bus service and the implementation of a car-sharing program.
However, since citation revenue flows to the county’s general fund, McInnes said the supervisors would have to re-approve the allocation of funds for Isla Vista transportation related projects each fiscal year, rendering the availability of that money in the future uncertain.
Before design of signage and printing of permits can take place, Hufschmid said the board still needs to finalize the legal text of the permit plan – a routine action that will occur at board meetings on July 6 and July 20. Both meetings include periods for public comment. After the legal ordinances are adopted, the county coastal development administrator will review the plan in late August or early September 2004.
“There’s a whole series of things that have to happen,” Hufschmid said. “The wildcard is if [the plan] gets appealed to the [California] Coastal Commission.”
The Coastal Commission, which ensures California coastal development does not restrict coastal access, will decide whether or not to hear any appeal within 30 days, Hufschmid said.
“If [the commission] chooses to hear the appeal, [the plan’s] up in the air,” she said. “It needs to get put on their agenda, which could take anywhere from two months to two years.”
Bull said the sheer scope of the project mandates that significant time will elapse between the project’s full approval and its full implementation.
“There’s no way [the county] can do this in a short amount of time,” Bull said. “Especially given the fact that the community isn’t really excited about it.”