Ending more than 11 years of negotiations, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors announced Tuesday that the county will buy the undeveloped section of blufftop on the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive.
Referred to by members of the Isla Vista Surfrider Foundation as “Claire’s Park,” the privately owned piece of land between 6709 and 6741 DP became the center of controversy earlier this year when 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone abruptly called off a previously reached acquisition deal that would have preserved the 2.15 acre lot as open space. At the time, Firestone voiced concerns over continued cliff erosion an unspecified legal issues.
Local representatives of the Surfrider Foundation who helped organize a public information campaign to save the blufftop open space from development praised Firestone for yielding to community pressure.
“I think that Firestone showed some leadership on this issue and listened to his constituents in Isla Vista and did the right thing,” said Scott Bull, an adviser to I.V. Surfrider and grants manager of the Associated Students Shoreline Preservation Fund. “I’m thankful that this purchase will be a tremendous benefit to the community.”
Firestone said Tuesday he was “very pleased” with the new agreement, which uses profits from the sale of surplus county land on DP and money from a variety of grants to come up with the $2.5 million needed to purchase the property from its private seller. Last February, Firestone also lobbied the Isla Vista Project Area Committee/General Plan Advisory Committee to allocate $100,000 from the Isla Vista Redevelopment Agency toward the county’s purchase of the land.
“Everybody wanted the property, including me … I always wanted it,” Firestone said. “The expressions of support – the petition, the get together, the e-mails – it all adds up to an expression of community support that I was able to articulate to the board.”
Firestone said the final transfer of funds and acquisition of the land by the county will take several months, but the process will start immediately.
While Claire’s Park is not the official name of the open space, Firestone said he looks forward to hearing what locals are interested in naming the new park when it is constructed.
Eric Cummings, I.V. Surfrider secretary, said he was excited about the county’s final decision to purchase the space and pleased that Firestone did what was in the best interest of the students and permanent residents of Isla Vista.
“[Firestone] showed he cares, or if given enough pressure, he will protect the open space in and around Isla Vista,” Cummings said.
Bull said I.V. residents and Surfrider should be congratulated for successfully demonstrating to Firestone how strongly the community felt about keeping the Claire’s Park land open.
“Grass-roots organizing can pay off in the end,” he said.