Discussion about the Isla Vista Community Center and renovation of local bus stops went round and round at a meeting of the Project Area Committee/General Plan Advisory Committee (PAC/GPAC) on Wednesday night.
The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) asked the PAC/GPAC for $90,000 to fund a feasibility study for the Isla Vista Community Center, and the committee decided in a 10-3 vote to recommend that the County Board of Supervisors allocate the money for the evaluation. The PAC/GPAC also discussed potential improvements such as new benches and covering for several I.V. bus stops, but decided to table the proposal for discussion at a later date.
IVRPD general manager Derek Johnson said the original design for the community center called for a $14 million facility — the price for which was deemed too expensive — and said revisions to the plan have lowered the projected cost to $8 million. The IVRPD was forced to cut its construction costs after ONE Generation, a private research group, withdrew its funding from the community center project.
Johnson said the IVRPD has received $4 million in pledges for the community center so far, but he said it still needs an additional $4 million in funding for the project to succeed. A feasibility study, he said, would let the IVRPD know if raising the extra money from the community is a realistic goal.
“Where is the money going to come from?” Johnson said. “We need to [conduct] a feasibility study. Can the $8 million be raised? The study may come back and say ‘no.'”
PAC/GPAC member Joy Hufschmid said she is not willing to spend $90,000 to fund the feasibility study for a community center if there is no guarantee of the center’s completion.
“This is the wrong path to go on,” Hufschmid said. “It’s not feasible for the community. I don’t see a tremendous need in the community for another building.”
UCSB graduate student Edward Collins said postponing the project any longer will only make construction of the community center less likely to happen.
“Everything is going up, and you have to deal with it,” Collins said. “If you want this building, I really think you need to fund the request. If you think it’s too expensive, I really think you need to fund this request.”
PAC/GPAC member Joel Silverman said he thinks too much time has already been spent on the community center, a proposal he said has come no closer to completion since approved by local voters in the November 2004 election.
“I think dreams die hard — this is a dream that’s time to put to sleep,” Silverman said. “A million dollars for a soccer field? I have to wonder who is in charge of this. Think about it. It doesn’t make any sense to me. These are [IVRPD] issues, not redevelopment issues. We are never going to see anything from it.” PAC/GPAC member Bryan Brown, also a member of the IVRPD, said he feels that bringing the community center to I.V. should be a top priority for both organizations.
“Personally, I think this is the most important project that has come before PAC in a very long time.” Brown said. “I feel the IVRPD is asking for help.”
The PAC/GPAC eventually decided to recommend that the board of supervisors grant the IVRPD the $90,000 needed for the feasibility study. Committee members Silverman, Hufschmid and Cyndi Wilson voted against the recommendation.
Santa Barbara County Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) representative David Damiano addressed the board regarding the need for renovations to several of the bus stops in Isla Vista. Damiano recommended that the board improve the bus stops by adding amenities like protective awnings, new benches with graffiti-resistant coating, new trash cans and bus schedule signage. He said such improvements would cost approximately $20,000 per bus stop.
Damiano said $26,000 in Measure D funding — taxpayer money that funds public facilities maintenance and community projects — has already been allocated to improve a bus stop at the intersection of Los Carneros Road and El Colegio Road, and a second bus stop located near the intersection of El Colegio and Camino Corto. While there is adequate funding available for renovation of those two stops, Damiano said, there is not enough money to permit refurbishing all of the bus stops that need improvement in I.V. He asked PAC/GPAC members to consider the bus stops that they feel need the most attention.
“I.V. is your community,” Damiano said. “You’re here every day, so we wanted to hear your input first.”
Damiano asked the PAC/GPAC to fund the remaining costs of the project, and while no official committee decision was made at the meeting, most members said they supported the project.
PAC/GPAC member Jamie Goldstein said the bus stop improvement project is a feasible way to make tangible, positive changes to I.V.
“One of the motivations is that it is something that can be done relatively quickly,” Goldstein said.
Craig Geyer, a PAC/GPAC member representing the business district of I.V., said he also believes that funding the bus stop improvements is a worthy cause, and said he would like to see the renovations completed by the beginning of the next academic year.
“My personal request would be for the bus stop on the east and west of El Colegio,” Geyer said. “I would like to see them up and running by the time the school starts in fall.”