The California Coastal Commission (CCC) unanimously voted Wednesday to put the brakes on approving the Isla Vista parking plan, tabling its decision until a later date.

Over 50 people attended the three-hour meeting, which was held at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara. Representatives of the Sierra Club, Isla Vista Recreation and Park District and the SB Surfrider Foundation spoke in favor of amending the I.V. parking plan to include more coastal access. County officials, county planners, I.V. residents and UCSB representatives spoke against amending the plan. Due to the large turnout and the number of unresolved issues discussed, the CCC, in a vote of 11-0, ruled to delay its decision.

“This is a matter to be negotiated, rather than a matter to be won,” Commissioner Dan Secord said. “There is no way we can discuss three years of work in the one hour that remains.”

The CCC voted in January to honor the appeal raised by Surfrider, which argued that the I.V. parking plan violated the Coastal Act of 1976 – legislation that requires the protection of coastal land for public use.

Because the appeal raised substantial issues about coastal access parking, the CCC hired a staff of development analysts to study the validity of the claim and to make amendments to the plan if more coastal access was needed.

The CCC’s analysts, after considering Surfrider’s appeal, concluded the parking plan does in fact decrease coastal access.

“Staff has met with both parties, from the county and Surfrider, to try to find a compromise to this matter,” Steve Hedson, CCC staff analyst, said.

The development staff recommended amending the parking plan to allow free unlimited parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and institute a four-hour parking limit from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. The time-restricted parking would apply to all parking in I.V., excluding seven coastal access areas – which yield 106 parking spots — and all metered parking that would be implemented in the commercial district of I.V.

County planners and representatives rejected the recommendation of the CCC’s staff, referring to it as “infeasible.”

“The infeasible plan would not improve the parking problem whatsoever and would drive patrons into surrounding neighborhoods,” SB County Transportation Director Scott McGlauphin said.

Supporters of Surfrider Foundation were in favor of the staff’s findings, however, and urged the commission to vote in favor of it.

“The county’s plan would fail to preserve coastal access parking,” said Bob Keats, vice chair of the SB chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “The California Coastal Commission’s staff recommendation is fair, reasonable and completely workable.”

Representatives of Surfrider also criticized the county planning committee, accusing the plan of lacking public input.

“The county has not done an adequate job reaching out to the community,” Scott Bull of Surfrider said.
County planners were quick to reject the claim, however, and assured the CCC that public opinion was considered in the parking plan.

“This has been a three-year-long process including over 40 public meetings, the participation of a dozen stakeholders and countless studies and surveys,” McGlauphin said.

Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said despite the dispute over the plan, a compromise must be made.

“Everyone has found problems with the parking plan — parking programs are not popular,” Firestone said. “For the greater good of the public, I urge this commission to adopt this plan as it was approved by the board of supervisors.”