Kris Miller-Fisher has big plans for Isla Vista, and if her new office in Embarcadero Hall is any indication, she will be spending plenty of time there to see them through.
Miller-Fisher will serve as 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone’s Director of Special Projects, a staff position that entails overseeing development within Isla Vista and UCSB. She said she was offered the position after physics professor Harry Nelson, a member of Firestone’s transition team, recommended her to Firestone based on her involvement with the university and county.
Miller-Fisher said her Embarcadero Hall office will provide a direct link between Firestone’s administration and I.V. residents once it opens sometime next week. She said she is currently trying to ensure her office hours are convenient for residents and said she hopes people will stop in to share their concerns and suggestions.
“We have room to have meetings in Isla Vista and not downtown Santa Barbara,” Miller-Fisher said. “I am looking forward to the daily involvement in the issues.” Despite the existence of the I.V. Master Plan, an outline for redevelopment in I.V. that has been in the works for nearly a decade, Miller-Fisher said she thinks PAC/GPAC, the county and the university can start improving I.V. immediately.
“We are working to help [finalize the master plan], but there are several things we can start before then,” Miller-Fisher said. “We can make progress on streetlights and sidewalks. We can begin to work on the alternative transportation issues.”
Miller-Fisher said she expects that the I.V. Master Plan will be adopted in approximately two years, but in the meantime, she said she thinks PAC/GPAC and the county can begin by making improvements to Pardall Road, such as adding trees, benches and additional lighting.
She said the administration is considering long-term plans to possibly connect Pardall and Anisq’ Oyo’ Park — a plan that would entail the creation of a large paved walkway that could potentially extend from El Embarcadero to the parking lot between the Isla Vista Bookstore and Emerald Video — but she said such a plan would take several years to design and even longer to implement.
“[Isla Vista Recreation and Park District] — with its board headed by UCSB senior Logan Green — along with the PAC and the county, is about to begin discussions on the redesign of the parks in the Embarcadero Loop,” Miller-Fisher said. “We all hope a lot of students participate with the rest of the community in this effort.”
In addition to pushing for immediate progress in I.V. development, Miller-Fisher said she wants to involve more students in the planning process. She said students will have the opportunity to intern in her new Embarcadero Hall office.
“We are going to set up an internship program to get students to work in the office,” she said. “We want students to be involved in local government and to work on issues in I.V., and to see how the government works on the county level.”
With Firestone’s administration pushing for immediate change and more community input, Miller-Fisher said, I.V. residents have the potential to see tangible improvements in the near future.
“This is a hopeful time for Isla Vista,” she said. “The university has been working hard on I.V. issues and has instituted some new programs — Magic Lantern Theater and I.V. Live! — that attract a lot of students, sometimes over 1,000 people a night. Things like this will help create a great place to live.”
Miller-Fisher said she thinks her background — which includes extensive experience in architecture and politics — has prepared her well for her new position. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in art history and a master’s degree in architecture. She then attended Harvard, where she earned a second master’s degree in urban design.
As a resident of Sierra Madre, Miller-Fisher operated a private architecture firm and taught architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. During this time, she also involved herself in local politics, serving as a member of the Sierra Madre Planning Commission and later as a member of the city council.
In December 2003, Miller-Fisher moved to Santa Barbara with her husband Marc Fisher, who is currently the UCSB Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Design and Facilities. Her 2-year-old son Grant currently attends the Montessori Center School in Goleta.
Miller-Fisher also currently lectures at UCSB, teaching both an architectural drafting class through the Art Dept. and a College of Creative Studies class titled “Designing Downtown Isla Vista,” in which students create a PowerPoint presentation and a packet of design guidelines to be included in the I.V. Master Plan.