As a result of land deals made by the County of Santa Barbara this summer, two recent college graduates are the newest landowners on Del Playa Drive, and one DP park has received an expansion and a brand-new name.
Jean LeSure and Victor Mezhvinsky, both 23-year-old San Francisco residents, bought the parcel of land at 6631 DP known as Del Playa Courts from the County of Santa Barbara in early August for nearly $1.2 million. LeSure said the two men plan to develop the land into student housing that could be open to tenants as early as fall of 2006. County officials used the proceeds raised by the sale to buy two vacant parcels of land on the 6700 block of DP adjacent to the open space formerly known as Claire’s Park and renamed the combined area “Capps Park.”
LeSure, a graduate of Cornell University, and Mezhvinsky, a UC Davis graduate, bought the land with money they borrowed from family, friends and lending partners. LeSure said the two men decided the DP property would be a good first purchase for their fledgling development company, LM Property Group.
“Basically, my business partner and I are starting a property development company and we came across that land,” LeSure said. “We thought it was a bargain, so we bought it.”
Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Project Manager Jamie Goldstein said the county’s subsequent acquisition of the final piece of Capps Park marks the end of the ongoing controversy surrounding the property, which began when 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone announced his decision to abandon negotiations for the land in January 2005.
When numerous local residents expressed support for the purchase of the open space, Firestone said the county would raise the funds to purchase the land for Capps Park by selling other county-owned properties on DP. However, Isla Vista Recreation and Park District [IVRPD] Director Diane Conn said, many environmental groups such as I.V. Surfrider opposed the sale of county land to fund the purchase of the parkland.
“The discussion around funding for that park was sacrificing two lots on [the 6600 block of DP] for two lots on [the 6700 block],” Conn said. “I would have preferred to have kept both parks and found the money somewhere else, but having those lots on [the 6700 block] is a whole lot more important to the community as a whole than having two lots on [the 6600 block].”
Firestone said he thinks all of the land transactions worked out well.
“I think they turned out just right,” Firestone said. “The plan has been in the making for 11 years to put Capps Park together as one continuous park, and that has been so desirable for all that time, and I’m just so delighted how it turned out.”
IVRPD General Manager Derek Johnson said the county and the district will work together to develop the park over the course of the next year, although it is primarily zoned as open space.
“The county owns the park and, pursuant to an agreement, we’re going to work together to develop the park,” Johnson said. “We’re excited that the county bought Capps Park. We have been slated to build a basketball court and volleyball courts [at 6631 DP]. We may put it in Capps Park.”
In the meantime, LeSure said the paperwork for the purchase of DP Courts is still being finalized, and once it is complete, LM Property Group will begin applying for construction permits.
“We’re looking into modern home-building methods to build a decently nice-looking building, modern and very durable,” LeSure said. “We’re looking to build something by the beginning of next year.”
When LeSure and Mezhvinsky offered to purchase the land, the Board of Supervisors was shocked by their age, LeSure said. He said he believes that the pair’s youth will come in handy as they try to build and manage student housing.
“For the most part, they were pretty surprised that in walked these two young guys in jeans,” LeSure said. “Everyone expected someone much older. We’re right out of college, and because we’ve lived in crappy college housing, we know that for the amount of money students are paying in I.V., they should be getting more.”
LeSure said he plans to follow the intended plans for the property, constructing houses with three bedrooms two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living room.
The men will also have to contend with strict zoning regulations because the property lies along the DP cliffs, Goldstein said.
“The county currently has certain setback requirements,” Goldstein said. “It’s a 75-year setback requirement for development on the I.V. bluffs, and what that means is newly permitted property has to sit back that far from eroding blufftop faces.”
LeSure said he does not expect any complaints from the property’s neighbors about the planned development.
“I don’t think there should be any opposition because we’re building a smaller building than what’s there,” LeSure said.