At last night’s first Isla Vista Project Area Committee and General Plan Advisory Committee meeting of the year, PAC/GPAC members defeated a motion that would have further prolonged revision of the I.V. Master Plan.
The 6:30 p.m. meeting, which took place at the University Religious Center, covered topics ranging from revisions to the I.V. Master Plan to the possible installation of roundabouts on El Colegio Road. The meeting’s attendees spent most of their time debating a motion drafted by the I.V. PAC Housing Subcommittee that would reopen discussion of zoning requirements included in the I.V. Master Plan. Specifically, the motion sought the inclusion of an alternative affordable housing strategy to be submitted in the Master Plan’s Environmental Impact Report.
Many of the PAC/GPAC members agreed that the existing I.V. Master Plan lacked effective support for affordable housing development.
“The incentives are not there,” said Lou Ventura, a member of the PAC/GPAC and a local property owner.
However, several committee and community members objected to the proposed revisions of the plan.
Todd Roberson, the Associated Students representative for the PAC/GPAC, said he was worried that specifically requiring only owner-occupied affordable housing would restrict rental housing development.
“I’m a little concerned as far as the second objective that you’re going to take away a lot of rental housing for students,” Roberson said.
Diane Conn, a member of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District Board and I.V. resident, addressed the PAC/GPAC members about the motion, saying she found it hard to have confidence in their plans because they kept changing.
“It’s way beyond what the community will support,” Conn said of the plan’s proposed increase in housing density. “This is our worst nightmare. That’s not why we started the Master Plan. They want to increase density in the 6500 block of DP and [put] in five and six story buildings and [cut] the community center out of the Master Plan Environmental Impact Report.”
Conn said removing the community center from the Master Plan’s EIR would force the IVRPD to assume full financial responsibility for a separate EIR focusing on just the community center. Conn said this would effectively kill the Community Center because, due to its recent legal battles, the IVRPD does not have the sufficient funds to complete a full EIR.
Mike Foley, a PAC/GPAC member, said reevaluating the Master Plan would cause a delay in the EIR, which was supposed to encompass the community center as well.
“[The community center] project needs to break ground at a certain time, and every month that it does not break ground costs $50,000,” Foley said.
Ultimately, the motion was defeated in an eight to four vote, with Arthur Kennedy abstaining.
Bryan Brown, a PAC/GPAC member, said the community center was the deciding factor in his vote.
“There was nothing in the proposition I disagree with, and really the issue was the community center,” Brown said. “[The community center is] something that has tremendous support and even if [the re-evaluation is] not killing it, it’s putting it at risk.”
County Redevelopment Agency Project Manager Jamie Goldstein, who had helped present the proposed motion, said the PAC/GPAC faced two competing interests.
“The difficulty is that we want to get the plan right, but there is a lot of pressure to get this done,” Goldstein said. “Tonight, [the PAC/GPAC] faced a choice between extending the planning process and not. They chose not.”
Goldstein briefly discussed a proposed plan to put roundabouts in on El Colegio from Camino Del Sur to campus. Goldstein said the plan is still being altered to address concerns about the width of the roundabouts and the potential challenges they could pose for persons with disabilities, but he said the plan as a whole would benefit El Colegio.
Since the plan is connected with the university’s San Clemente Housing Project, however, Goldstein said he could not predict when it would be implemented.
PAC/GPAC member Janet Stitch said the San Clemente Project was not approved by the Coastal Commission when it was presented in December because the commission felt it was not given enough time to consider it.
Despite this delay, Goldstein said he was confident that the plan will gain approval, and he estimated that the roundabouts would be put in sometime in fall 2006 or 2007.
3rd District County Supervisor Brooks Firestone spoke at the meeting, discussing his intentions for the future of Isla Vista. Firestone said many of his plans for I.V. center around the improvement and implementation of the Master Plan.
Firestone said he wanted the PAC/GPAC to consider the fact that the costs of implementing the Master Plan could force the community and the county to cut back on funding for other programs, and he said the I.V. Redevelopment Agency’s budget should be carefully scrutinized.
“[I want] total transparency and the ability to know exactly what the redevelopment agency has as its assets, where its revenue comes from and how it operates,” Firestone said. “Additionally I want the assurance that the Master Plan is able to be realized.”
Firestone answered some audience questions, mostly related to housing incentives for developers looking to build affordable housing in Isla Vista.
“We are asking property owners to rebuild in a certain way, and we have to be careful to plan so that they will want to do that,” Firestone said. “I worry about forcing a property owner into doing anything. If we plan well and put the proper incentives in it will be desirable to do that.”