A decision by the California Coastal Commission to hear two appeals against the Isla Vista parking plan threatens to put the brakes on the program, which would require residents to buy a permit before parking on the street.
The commission heard both appeals – which were filed in December – two weeks ago and decided in a 7-2 vote that the claims were worth investigating and merited a second hearing. One of the appeals, filed by the Santa Barbara chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, argued that the plan limited public coastal access. The other appeal, filed by I.V. resident Bruce Murdock, argued that the required-permit area should provide for a separate zone in which permanent residents would not be held to the same parking guidelines as university commuters and student residents.
The date of the second hearing, referred to as a de novo hearing, has not yet been scheduled.
Steve Hudson, California Coastal Commission supervisor, said the hearing will take place in two stages.
“In the first part, the commission has to determine whether or not the appeals raise a substantial issue,” Hudson said. “In this case the commission did in fact find that.”
The California Coastal Commission, created by the Coastal Act of 1976, aims to protect and conserve coastal land for public use. Under the act, the commission has the final say regarding all legislation that could possibly restrict public use of the California coast.
Bob Keats, vice chair of Santa Barbara Surfrider, said the Surfrider appeal was based on a premise that the parking plan violated the Coastal Act by decreasing coastal parking availability from the 3,000 spots along the streets of I.V. to just 106 spots designated for coastal access. He also said there was inadequate parking at four of the five DP beach access ways and that this was a major flaw in the plan.
“[The parking plan] would eliminate coastal access parking in the summer, when the demand for coastal access parking is at its highest,” Keats said. “There are always lines of cars at Goleta Beach in the summer waiting to park.”
Keats said he thinks the county needs to revise the plan to provide additional parking for beachgoers.
“The reason this is so important to us is because Isla Vista has the most consistent surf on the coastline from Summerland to Gaviota,” Keats said. “It is an important surfing location,” Keats said.
Murdock’s appeal argued for the creation of a separate zone, which would divide I.V. into two districts split by Camino Corto. In his appeal, Murdock said the district west of Camino Corto, referred to as the Single Family Restricted Overlay District, or R-1, should not be subject to the parking permit system.
Due to the high number of coastal access spots in R-1, Murdock said, implementing a permit plan in the area would restrict coastal access. He said R-1 provides nearly eight times as much coastal access parking as is offered by the rest of I.V., and he said much of that would become permit-only if the parking plan were to treat all of I.V. as one zone.
“I am in favor of the parking program,” Murdock said. “But it was certainly sleazy the way it was done.”
Murdock said the SB County Board of Supervisors failed to acknowledge the high support for a two-zone parking plan during public hearings before the plan was passed.
“At the end of the whole process, Gail Marshall wanted a one-zone system, which was a major slap in the face to us,” Murdock said. “R-1 didn’t support Gail Marshall – they were very active in her recall – so it was political payback during the board of supervisors meeting when she opted for one zone.”
As approved by the board, the Isla Vista parking plan would install metered parking in downtown I.V. and a permit-parking system in the residential areas of I.V. The mandatory permits would be available to residents at an annual cost of $95 for cars registered in Santa Barbara County and $150 for cars not registered in the county.
Jamie Goldstein, SB County Redevelopment Agency project manager, said the next hearing to discuss these appeals has not yet been scheduled because of the administrative preparations necessary for it to take place.
“The next step is for the city to turn over the public record to the California Coastal Commission, and they will write a staff report,” Goldstein said.
At the next hearing, the commission has three choices: to approve the plan as is and reject the appeals, to deny the plan altogether or to refer it back to the Planning Commission for more studies to be done, Hudson said.
“At these hearings, it is possible that the item can be continued until the next meeting,” Hudson said. “The commission, however, will presumably reach a final decision.”
Goldstein said he thought the commission would probably opt to refer the parking plan back to the county, demanding that more studies be done.
“California voters, with the Coastal Act, established very strict regulations,” Goldstein said. “The end result is that it is difficult to get stuff done in the coastal zone; there are a lot of hoops and hurdles.”
Murdock said he thinks it will take a long time for the Coastal Commission to hold their second hearing because of the bureaucracy involved with the appeals.
“It’s going to take them easily six months, if not longer,” Murdock said. “I’m not going to hold my breath. You won’t see anything soon.”