Parker Montgomery said he thinks there is room for improvement in Isla Vista, where he sees the potential for a community that better reflects the prestige of UCSB.
Appointed by newly inaugurated 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, Montgomery will serve as the 3rd District’s representative on the five-member Santa Barbara County Planning Commission – trying to make that improvement happen.
“The university is the jewel of Santa Barbara County and we would like to have a community to match,” Montgomery said. “In terms of dreams, which turn into visions, Brooks Firestone and I would like to see Isla Vista become as world-class a community as the university is that surrounds it. Why can’t Isla Vista have the same reputation as Chapel Hill at the University of North Carolina?”
Montgomery, whose two-year term began Jan. 5, may be one of the new faces serving Santa Barbara County, but he is a longtime central coast resident and a third generation Californian. A lawyer and former city councilman in upstate New York, he said Firestone chose him because of his love and knowledge of the local area.
The most significant role the planning commission plays, he said, is as a review board for any and all issues involving new residential or commercial development in the county. In addition to reviewing plans, Montgomery said the planning commission also works to resolve disagreements that may arise in the development process.
“A lot of time is spent in dispute resolution,” he said. “We are the first group [people see] before the board of supervisors.”
He said his main concern, as well as the concern of the other members of the planning agency for Santa Barbara, is fairness in its judgements.
“I think number one for all of us that came into office with Brooks Firestone is fairness – whether something is legal, of course — but beyond that, whether something is fair,” Montgomery said.
The planning agency often reviews cases in which building applications have been turned down or neighbors are unhappy with the approval of nearby development. Regardless of the situation, however, Montgomery said he wants to ensure an unbiased assessment of all building applications and disputes that may come before the planning agency for review.
As far as the Firestone administration’s plans for Isla Vista, Montgomery said he and the supervisor feel I.V. is 320 acres of oceanside property with tremendous potential. He said it is somewhat premature, having only been in office since the beginning of this month, to have a complete development plan for I.V., but said plans for such development will focus on fairness and community involvement.
He said the planning commission wants to update the existing Isla Vista Master Plan and that he looks forward to working with I.V. on a more intimate level.
“We would like to start over again and gather all the organizations in Isla Vista, and the residents, to develop a vision for the type of community [everyone wants],” he said. “We are talking about [having] the groups involved take a fresh look.”
The new administration, Montgomery said, will work from the top down with professional planners and from the bottom up with local input. He also said university cooperation is essential to the success of an improved Isla Vista, and that Firestone does not have any plans to take the fun out of I.V.
“He’ll leave all the good pizza parlors,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said he plans to get everyone in I.V. involved in the planning process because some of the best ideas come from the residents themselves. He said he hopes to build enough enthusiasm in the community to actually see resident ideas and goals come to fruition.