Members of the Isla Vista Project Area Committee and General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC) approved a motion to allocate $100,000 toward the purchase of five parcels of open space on Del Playa Drive at their meeting Wednesday night.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone presented the proposal to buy the land – a stretch of blufftop property between 6709 and 6741 DP. Negotiations to purchase the land from its private owners had previously been considered by the Santa County Board of Supervisors, but the supervisors rejected it at a closed-session meeting Feb. 1. Collectively, the parcels have been valued at $2.65 million.
In a 12-1 vote, with one abstention, the board agreed to allocate the funds.
Firestone said he made the recommendation because he thinks that any PAC/GPAC offering, no matter how small, could constitute enough of a change in circumstances surrounding the deal to prompt the board of supervisors to reconsider their initial decision.
“We might look back on this night 20 years from now and say that Isla Vista did the right thing,” Firestone said. “I always said that if new circumstances arose, I’d bring this matter back to the board. … This money would be one of the elements I would use to re-present this matter.”
Joel Silverman, the board member representing the I.V. Property Owners’ Association, abstained from the vote and said he did not think allocating the funds for the park was a good financial decision.
“If there’s open space in Isla Vista, this PAC will vote for it – no question,” Silverman said. “As a businessman, however, it’s just frustrating to see the process devolve from a financial standpoint.” Other board members questioned whether restrictions on land use for the parcels would prohibit the county from using the space in a way I.V. residents would like.
“I would be worried that the area would be left… un-landscaped and not developed,” board member Jennifer Rogers said .
Before the board voted on the matter, SB County Auditor-Controller Robert Geis presented a financial report for the past fiscal year which stated that the I.V. Redevelopment Agency currently has $600,000 to $700,000 in unallocated funds.
Board member Joy Hufschmid said she felt that the PAC/GPAC had enough funds to offer the $100,000 Firestone had requested to help buy the property.
“That open space is the reason this Isla Vista Redevelopment Agency began in the first place,” Huffschmid said. “This is a good opportunity and it could be the last opportunity [to buy this land].”
Board member Lou Ventura suggested that the PAC/GPAC pledge $150,000 instead, but board members ultimately decided against offering any more than Firestone had requested.
Members of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) and I.V. Surfrider – two groups that both support the preservation of the property as open space – asked the PAC/GPAC to support Firestone’s proposal.
Diane Conn, one of the IVRPD directors, said she was hopeful that approval of the $100,000 would help make the open space a park.
“I’m thrilled that we’re discussing this,” Conn said. “I was so disheartened when the board of supervisors decided against this. I think we should be optimistic. With the grants, there’d only be another million we have to collect.”
I.V. Surfrider secretary Eric Cummings said support for the proposal was particularly strong among I.V. residents.
“Most of the time, when you’re doing grassroots work and collecting signatures, you get a lot of, ‘no’s,'” Cummings said. “This was just the opposite. Pretty much everyone in the community wants this.”
Cummings said I.V. Surfrider has collected nearly 1,500 signatures from I.V. residents supporting the preservation of the parcels, which Surfrider members have dubbed “Claire’s Park.”
Scott Bull, vice president and co-founder of I.V. Surfrider, echoed Cummings’ statements and said his organization might be able to generate more money for the purchase of the park through fundraising efforts.
PAC/GPAC board member Craig Geyer suggested that I.V. Surfrider should also donate money toward purchasing the park if its members were in favor of it.
Cummings said Surfrider’s funds may be too limited to offer any financial assistance.
“We’re just on a budget of about $300,” Cummings said. “But we’d still consider making a donation if we were asked.”