After almost four years of planning, a revised version of the Isla Vista parking plan is making a final pit stop at the California Coastal Commission (CCC), where commission members will decide whether or not to allow the plan to take effect.
John McInnes, Santa Barbara County director of strategic and long-range planning, said the CCC must grant the county a permit to implement the plan before it can be enacted. McInnes said the commission will review a new version of the plan soon, which includes revisions based on criticisms the plan has received from local residents and the CCC itself. He said he does not know when the commission will decide whether or not to approve the plan but he expects it to be finalized this spring.
The current plan facing the Coastal Commission includes a permit program for the residential area of I.V. and the installation of parking meters for Isla Vista’s downtown area, including the Embarcadero loop. McInnes said the new residential permit program is similar to the original plan, which proposed a permit costing approximately $95 a year. Rates for metered parking in downtown I.V. would be the same as UCSB’s hourly parking rates, McInnes said.
“We are getting close and I think it is our desire to have the final plan complete this spring,” McInnes said.
McInnes said the county worked with the CCC for the past year to come up with a modified parking plan that addresses some specific worries that local residents and the members of the commission expressed about the previous proposal.
“We’ve been working with [the CCC] to develop a project to meet the concerns,” McInnes said. “We’ve completed the project, so it depends on them.”
The CCC’s main problem with the original plan was centered on whether it would prevent the public from parking near I.V.’s beaches. McInnes said the revised plan provides for more free parking near the coast than the original plan, and parking will be available near each of the coastal access points on Del Playa Drive.
“The Coastal Commission’s concern around the program was that it wasn’t inclusive for all persons who might want to access the coast,” McInnes said.
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the county has been debating different parts of the plan with the Coastal Commission for over a year. The public will get its chance to comment on the plan once negotiations between the county and the CCC are complete.
The county is currently discussing the construction of parking lots in I.V. to supplement the free beach access parking it will probably provide on I.V.’s streets.
“There are a couple of lots we’re negotiating for because obviously we have to provide people with some parking,” Firestone said.
The Santa Barbara Surfrider Foundation first appealed the original I.V. Parking Plan in Jan.2005, arguing that the plan violated the 1976 Coastal Act by not including enough free parking spaces for people visiting the beach.
McInnes said county staff has been working to craft a program that best suits the community. Once the CCC grants the county a permit to begin implementing the plan, the issue will go to the Board of Supervisors for discussion.
After the plan receives approval, the county will have to order the necessary equipment, including street signs, enforcement vehicles and meters, before they can enact the permit system. Realistically, McInnes said, the plan may not be ready for the 2006-2007 academic year. He said officials would want to implement the plan in the beginning of the school year.
McInnes said a major cause of I.V.’ s parking shortage is the large number of people who park in I.V. for free and then walk to campus to avoid UCSB’s daily parking rates. He said out-of-town visitors also contribute to the overcrowded local streets.
Firestone said the 3rd District has been working on alternative projects to improve the parking situation in I.V. while the county waits to enact the parking plan. He said increased enforcement of temporary parking spaces on the Embarcadero loop and Pardall Road began on Oct. 1, 2005 and has already improved the parking situation in downtown I.V.
“We’re making a little progress here and there,” Firestone said.