The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission will consider the adoption of the Isla Vista Master Plan at a public hearing today to discuss the future of affordable housing, transportation and land use in I.V.
The meeting, which will be held in Santa Barbara, will be the first hearing focused on adopting the master plan – which residents, property and business owners, as well as several I.V. community organizations have been working on for the last six years. The plan proposes renovations to almost all areas of I.V., including implementing solutions to the town’s major parking problems, the development of a distinct “downtown” area on Pardall Road, and re-establishing Anisq’ Oyo Park as the “focal point” of the community.
In addition, organizers have upped their efforts recently to push for the master plan to mandate the creation of more affordable housing in I.V.
According to Jamie Goldstein, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency, despite an existing statute mandating that 25 percent of all new housing built in I.V. must be affordable for low-income families, the lack of actual growth in I.V. has meant very little construction of new affordable housing.
The master plan aims to fight this problem by rezoning the town to encouraging more growth, and with it, more affordable housing, Goldstein said.
“It is very difficult to build something in I.V. and have it pay for itself and be economically feasible,” Goldstein said. “The intent of the plan is to change the regulatory structure so people can make a profit when they build. And with more building comes more affordable housing.”
Goldstein said the call for affordable housing has come from a variety of different groups of people, ranging from UCSB students to low-income families to contractors and businesses. However, he said, the master plan cannot solve social problems – it can only lay the groundwork for change.
“I’ve had to walk a fine line. The general plan is about land use and zoning, not about social programming,” he said. “We’re trying to help by changing land use so that people, and businesses, will be interested in I.V. again and show how nice I.V. can be. The goal is to change these things from the ground up starting with this master plan.”
Goldstein said issues like transportation and parking are the most relevant issues addressed in the master plan. When the plan was being drafted, he said, organizers placed a large emphasis on improving transportation issues in I.V. through the implementation of a parking management system – which would have separate districts for residential areas and downtown, bus route improvements, a car share program and would extend pedestrian connections to campus, he said.
The plan also aims to improve the existing parks in I.V. by increasing usability and visual appearance and creating a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists.
While parts of the master plan have been implemented, the master plan project has not yet been fully implemented because none of the regulatory codes have been approved, Goldstein said.
In order to fund projects for the master plan, the County Redevelopment Agency has a set aside a fund for affordable housing. The fund, which consists of 20 percent of the agency’s total revenue, currently has about $4 million to pay for building and maintaining affordable housing.
Goldstein said that the fund has not been used in a long time because of the lack of planning and housing development in I.V.
“We haven’t been proactive about spending funding,” he said. “The plan will change this.”