Construction began on Monday of the Pardall Road Streetscape project, a public endeavor aimed at giving Isla Vista’s commercial center a bit of a face-lift.
The project is the first component of the Isla Vista Master Plan, and includes removing the current roadblock, widened sidewalks along Pardall Road and increasing street lighting and bike parking. Water and sewage systems will be updated, and over 70 new trees will also be planted along Pardall as part of the project.
Jeff Lindgren, a redevelopment specialist with the Santa Barbara County Executive Office, said that construction of the project is expected to conclude in mid-December. Until then, he said, through-traffic along the street — particularly for private vehicles — will be affected.
“Whenever there is a major construction project like this, there is an impact on the public,” he said. “Private vehicles will be the most impacted; it won’t be the easiest place to drive, but service vehicles will be allowed to bring supplies to the commercial businesses [along Pardall].”
Particularly noticeable to I.V. commuters on foot, bike and board alike will be the temporary construction of a four-foot trench along the center of Pardall Road, which crews will dig in order to install water and sewage utilities.
Lindgren said that although the construction may pose temporary inconveniences to the community, the end result will be a “downtown area” that is more accessible and appealing to I.V. pedestrians.
“The most interesting [part of the plan] is that the sidewalk on the sunny-side of Pardall — the Sam’s To Go side — will be expanded 12 feet out, so you’ll have a big promenade with outdoor café space where people can eat and shop,” he said.
Sam’s To Go manager Frankie Homayouni said in his opinion, limited vehicle access to the area would not strongly affect business at his sandwich shop.
“I don’t think it will have a big impact [on sales]. People are going to have to eat. They’ll come,” Homayouni said.
“In a way it’ll be good, for business — it’ll give us more room, because we’re going to extend the seating outward too. Besides, the streets need to be changed up anyway. It’s a mess out there now,” he added.
Ken Warfield, director of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, echoed Homayouni and said vehicle traffic along Pardall was particularly bad. He said that the improvements being made will be particularly beneficial to the future safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
“For being as dangerous for cyclists as they are, it’s amazing how few people are injured in those intersections [on Pardall Road],” Warfield said. “The improvements will limit vehicle traffic and be much more friendly for pedestrians and bikers.”
Despite the expected decrease in vehicle traffic that Warfield says will result from the removal of parking spaces along Pardall, he said he and others were personally dissatisfied with the plan because it did not eliminate vehicular traffic altogether.
“Its not completely what the community wanted,” Warfield said. “Most people did not want cars on the block, but wanted a pedestrian mall, like the one on campus.”
Warfield says that this plan failed because the Redevelopment Agency could not secure access to the land in back of the businesses on Pardall, where they would have needed to clear alleyways to allow vehicle access for commercial loading.
The Isla Vista Master Plan has been under development since 1999, when an advisory board was formed to address the various infrastructure, traffic and zoning problems in the community. After holding over 60 meetings over the next eight years to discuss the plan and garner public input, the IVMP was put before and approved by the County Board of Supervisors in August of 2007.
Following the Pardall Streetscape renovations, the next Master Plan construction project — slated to begin construction in 2009 — is a solar-powered parking structure at the Northwest corner of the intersection of Pardall Road and Embarcadero del Mar.