A plan to require parking permits in Isla Vista is gradually moving from the drawing board to reality, but opposition from the Surfrider Foundation may significantly slow the process.
On Sept. 13 the Santa Barbara County zoning administrator approved a coastal development permit for the installation of parking meters and street signs. There is a 10-day period for local organizations and community members to formally appeal the coastal development permit. If an appeal is filed, the proposal would go to the county board of supervisors for final local approval.
Dave Ward, supervising planner for the I.V. Master Plan project, said even if no appeal is filed, the earliest the program would be implemented is fall 2005.
“If the plan is appealed, it won’t go back to the board of supervisors for about six weeks, and then it can be appealed again,” Ward said. “If it is appealed then, the program will go to the [California] Coastal Commission for approval, which will also take a considerable amount of time.”
As for the current phase, the Santa Barbara chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is considering filing an appeal. Vice Chair Bob Keats said Surfrider’s main complaint with the plan is the limited amount of coastal access.
“I.V. is an unusually important area for surfing,” Keats said. “From Summerland to Gaviota, I.V. has the most consistent surf spots. By restricting the amount of beach parking, [the plan] eliminates something that exists now to the community for free.”
Isla Vista Recreation and Park District board member Diane Conn said the amount of parking for coastal access has actually increased since the plan was originally drafted because of complaints from the Surfrider Foundation.
“Originally there were 70 to 75 spaces designated as coastal access. … now there are 106 spaces,” Conn said. “If [the Surfrider members] were really environmentalists they would want people to pay for parking just to discourage them from using their cars so often.”
Conn said the purpose of the parking plan is not to reduce the amount of coastal access but to transfer the cost of maintaining such access to the people who park in I.V.
“We want to give people an incentive not to use their cars,” she said. “The plan also supports methods of alternative transportation to show people they can live without their car for a year or two.”
When the board of supervisors approved the plan in June, it directed the county’s public works department to study the feasibility of a car-sharing program and remote parking lots for long-term car storage, Ward said.
“We’ve been working closely with the university, which is developing a car-sharing program of its own, so that’s been an ongoing project for us,” he said. “A remote parking lot would have more constraints because we would have to find a site, provide transportation from the lot to I.V. and we would have to establish reasonable rates to use the lot.”
The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transportation District is also working on an express shuttle scheduled to go from Ellwood to I.V. every 15 minutes, Conn said.
Keats said he thinks the university should absorb some of the parking problem.
“Students already pay a fee for the bus pass, so the university should give students the option of a bus pass or a parking spot on campus because there is the capacity on campus to do so,” he said. “Instead the plan makes the victims of the problem pay for it. I think it’s an inherently unfair program.”
As approved by the board of supervisors, the parking plan includes metered parking in I.V.’s downtown district and mandatory annual permits in most residential areas. The annual permit will cost $95 for vehicles registered in Santa Barbara County and $150 for vehicles registered outside of the county.