By Eleni Litras
The California Coastal Commission denied the preferential parking permit plan for Isla Vista residential streets, telling Santa Barbara County and UCSB to devise another strategy.
The parking plan, which has been argued over for several years, would have required residents to purchase a roughly $150 permit in order to park in I.V. Non-residents wishing to park on the streets would have had to either pay about $8 a day or a $432 annual permit.
At the CCC hearing held yesterday in Los Angeles, representatives from the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club and local residents expressed their opposition to the plan. Meanwhile, representatives from UCSB along with Santa Barbara County asked for the plan’s approval.
The commission, however, unanimously voted to deny the plan, and among other criticisms said that UCSB needs to become more involved, as it is the cars of commuting students that crowd the streets: One commissioner said the county’s and university’s burden should not be placed on the general public. Commissioners made various suggestions for the university to employ, including creating disincentives for students to bring cars.
“The meeting raised several concerns of what some of the underlying problems of parking are,” Steve Hudson, Santa Barbara County supervisor of planning and regulation, said.
Advocates of the plan insisted that the shortage of parking in I.V. is directly caused by commuting students looking to avoid paying a parking fee on campus. According to a recent county study, between 85 and 92 percent of street parking in I.V. is occupied at any given time. There are approximately 3,000 on-street parking spots in I.V., and UCSB commuters take up 700 to 1,000 of those spots on a daily basis.
However, opponents of the plan as well as the commission said the permit system fails to address central issues, and restricts I.V. beach access for visitors.
“[There are] many complex facets to the parking problem,” Cary Penniman, a Surfrider volunteer said. “The general consensus from the commissioners was not only that the commuters cause a problem in I.V. but also that the county has a zoning problem that they are not addressing, and the coastal commission doesn’t want the county to undermine the coastal act to solve local problems.”
Surfrider Foundation Santa Barbara Chapter member Ben Preston said the university must be more involved in the parking plan or it will continue to fail.
“Our position was that the county’s plan had unacceptable prices,” Preston said. “We said the parking problem in I.V. is brought on by the university, and the Coastal Commission agreed.”
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, who supported the parking plan, said he was disappointed the proposal failed, and that he would work on an acceptable solution.
“It is interesting that there is no group of people who favor the plan; it is just something that is in the master plan with no strong constituency,” Firestone said. “I am going to find out what happened and take a look at it, but it’s not the highest of my priorities.”
While opponents urged the commission to deny the plan, they also asked that alternative ideas be considered. They suggested, as one alternative, allowing free parking during the day but enforcing a preferential permit-parking plan at night.
CCC Chairwoman Meg Caldwell said the university and county could enforce zoning, prohibit freshman from having cars, grant on-campus parking based on I.V. housing, or the university could simply reduce the price of parking on campus.
Penniman said UCSB’s involvement will be crucial to any new parking plan presented to the commission.
“The county will probably still pursue a parking plan, but today it was clear that the coastal commission will not accept a plan that doesn’t involve UCSB,” Penniman said.