Isla Vista residents bike, surf, party, go to parks and park their cars for days if they can find a place. But when their bikes and boards get stolen, their parks are threatened with major development and their cars are vandalized, they almost don’t feel like partying. Problems in Isla Vista can’t be solved overnight, but once we shed light on the major ones, improvements can be quickly made. First of all, priorities and agreement on common goals must be established.
City of Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency’s goal of preserving open space is a top priority, as should be reducing crime, vandalism, trash, noise and urban blight. Also regular and timely building inspections in the summer, stricter (not fewer, as is slated) parking requirements for developments, alternative transportation routes (MTD’s shuttle and improved train station access) and beautification projects, such as more tree-planting, landscaping and undergrounding utilities (no more hanging sneaker decor) need to be acted upon.
Many intended goals of the Isla Vista Master Plan just aren’t as important and were not advocated by the public. Certain groups’ agendas prevailed to the potential detriment of residents’ quality of life. How could “quality of life” issues affect this inebriated garbage-strewn playground? Easily — most decision-makers and advisory panel members don’t live here and/or they work for public agencies and UCSB, who, so far, have not factored Isla Vista residents’ best interests in as a priority. Their plan intends to substantially increase density, pave over parks and recreation areas, and build higher structures — all goals that are currently prohibited by coastal and local zoning ordinances. These outcomes will worsen our already overtaxed infrastructure and further cramp tenants’ quarters.
Creating huge facilities in a quiet residential zone, such as Estero Park and Tipi Village, to draw in hundreds of outsiders is a terrible idea. Skate parks and social service centers for non-Isla Vistans, if needed at all, should be placed in or right near UCSB where its parking, students and personnel can easily access them. A community center should serve those who live here with open access and not be restricted to age and income levels that prohibit residents’ use of their public parks and vital recreation and garden areas. But these are the very detrimental plans that are moving forward even though, in many hours of public comment and workshops, residents begged for more services, safety, silence, space and student supervision.
Let’s deal with the critical problems in Isla Vista first, not continue to drain dry this seaside hamlet by using it as a dumping ground for “affordable housing,” social services for outsiders, parking for UCSB, or a cash cow for landlords, out-of-town consultants and development interests. Concerned citizens who live and work here are tired of having their windshields, their peace and quiet and their political promises shattered.
Although we greatly appreciate that county government has recently worked hard to improve our area by planting trees, fixing sidewalks and planning meetings, it is unfortunate that it couldn’t avert a half a half a million dollar lawsuit against the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District because of a feud over a garden party invitation. That public meeting violation will cost the district a substantial portion of its operating budget, much of which has already been squandered on hours of staff time and huge pay expenditures to out-of-town architects and consultants to further a park development plan that is unsustainable, underfunded, ruinous to the nature of diverse and well-used parks and not at all in the best interests of district constituents. It is not surprising that sticking with some simple fixes like picking up trash, keeping people safe and saving parks and open space would be the most popular plan to make Isla Vista a better place.
Dorothy Dent is an Isla Vista resident.