On Jan. 25, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously decided to discontinue negotiations on five Isla Vista blufftop lots. Real estate discussions are conducted in closed session because they involve confidential negotiations and because the discussions on the merits of a private property should not be made public.
As expressed at the board hearing, some I.V. residents are disappointed in not having the five lots as parkland. The properties in question would join two other existing parks to form a large and beautiful blufftop public space. These property negotiations were unsuccessful due to circumstances that are public information and should be known, even though it is not possible to discuss the details of purchase negotiations.
This project is not new to the county. These particular five lots have been a subject of negotiations since August 1991. Obviously, if it were an easy or natural acquisition, the deal would have been made long ago.
In past years, the county, in coordination with the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, has successfully acquired many parks and public lands in Isla Vista. At present, 37 percent of the space on the Isla Vista bluffs is public land.
Additionally, there are 14 parks in I.V., for a total of 56.7 acres. This is well above the nationally targeted availability of park space in urban settings.
Over the years, the county has diligently worked to secure open space surrounding I.V. With Goleta Beach Park, the UCSB main campus, West Campus, Coal Oil Point Reserve and now, most importantly, the Ellwood Mesa property, there is around four and a half miles of oceanfront property east and west of I.V. As author of this editorial, I hasten to add that this has all been done by my predecessors.
Also, unfortunately, this project comes at a time of extraordinary erosion, which has caused evacuations, safety reviews and lawsuits. The fact that bluff properties are being evacuated and demolished puts a cloud over any county purchase.
Additionally, there is unresolved litigation involving five lots owned by the Chase family. The county has had a judgment of takings and the penalty phase of the trial will take place this year, further clouding the blufftop-property situation for the county.
So, with great disappointment, the supervisors voted unanimously on Jan. 25 to discontinue negotiations. Perhaps some new information or approach might come along and the project can be reopened. Meanwhile, from stairs at beach accessways to large projects like the Rec Cen, there are many plans and needs for I.V. both in day-to-day operations and in the great vision of the I.V. Master Plan. We should all look forward to many good projects ahead.
Brooks Firestone is the 3rd District supervisor.