Members of the Isla Vista chapter of the Surfrider Foundation spent Sunday afternoon partying with Del Playa Drive residents on a portion of blufftop open space, hosting a concert and barbecue to show their desire to have the land turned into an ocean-side park.
Dubbed Claire’s Park by organizers, the party attracted about 40 people to the empty lots between 6709 and 6741 DP. From approximately 1 to 3:30 p.m., the event provided food and welcomed a performance by local band Toy Gun Massacre, which played from a front yard across the street. Attendees protested the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors’ recent decision to end negotiations to buy the privately owned land and turn the area into an open-space park; a decision that now leaves a large portion of the area subject to development
Eric Cummings, a third-year English major and secretary of I.V. Surfrider, said that over the past few weeks the organization has collected about 800 signatures on its petition, which requests that 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone make public the proceedings dealing with the 0.7 acres of privately owned land adjacent to empty parcels already owned by the county.
“Firestone hasn’t shown support for keeping Claire’s Park an open space, so we’re here getting people to rally and show support for open spaces first off, and to show a message to Firestone,” Cummings said. “If he is not going to protect a park in I.V., he’s not going to protect Goleta Beach or Ellwood Mesa.”
Cummings said he thinks Firestone has not fully explained the motives behind the decision to stop the property deal, which was made during a closed-session meeting. He said Firestone should publicize the negotiation proceedings because the supervisor should be held accountable to I.V. residents about environmental issues.
In a Feb. 7 letter to the Daily Nexus, Firestone wrote that he could not discuss details of property acquisition proceedings because they are conducted in confidence, and that pending litigation and recent erosion damage to blufftop properties complicated the negotiations, which have been going on since 1991.
The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) board held a meeting last week to consider buying the land, but decided that it did not have the funds to pursue the deal at present.
Juliette Wigley, a first-year environmental studies major and member of Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board, said the land is in danger of being sold to private developers. Wigley said county was making headway when the board of supervisors unanimously voted to end those negotiations.
“I went to the IVRPD and I heard Firestone speak about why [he ended negotiations] and I don’t understand why the deal didn’t go through,” Wigley said. “[Firestone] said it was a bad deal, but I’ve heard many people say it was a good deal.”
IVRPD Director Diane Conn said Firestone had the opportunity to create the park and has intentionally not acted, and has also moved to prevent the IVRPD from buying a portion of the property.
“Everybody should know [Firestone] came to our meeting so the IVRPD wouldn’t move forward,” Conn said. “He could have supported funding, which would have given us a shot to buy three of the five parcels of land. Is this at the behest of some of his supporters or is this him not fully understanding I.V.?”
Conn said that the community needs to continue pressuring the county about the land.
“We need to keep dialogue open and keep pressing for this park before someone puts up a fucking apartment here,” Conn said. “We need open space; we need large open space. It’s what we want, and it’s bullshit for us to get ripped off.”
Mavis Harms, the Goleta Beach representative for I.V. Surfrider, said she hoped the event would get the county’s attention.
“We’re trying to get a lot of community support and trying and bring it to the attention of the community; hopefully that will give lawmakers pressure to save the park,” Harms said.