After years of carefully controlled and constricted growth, UCSB is scheduled to undergo a series of sweeping physical renovations and open its gates to 5,000 additional students by the year 2025.
Once the green light is given, the 2008 Long Range Development Plan, “Vision 2025,” will drastically increase student enrollment, reconfigure the fundamental layout of UCSB and further merge the campus with a more modernized version Isla Visa.
The new blueprint also paves the way for the demolition of ancient portions of campus in order to open views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains and transform today’s hodgepodge of a university into an oceanfront belvedere.
The extreme makeover, however, hinges on a go ahead from the UC Regents and the California Coastal Commission — an oversight body renowned for its stringent regulations.
A Beautification Campaign
If the graduating class of 2008 were to return to UCSB in 2025, perhaps the most striking difference would be the pedestrian “malls” stretching across campus. These open-air corridors of the future will cut through the entirety of campus — from north to south and east to west – to make the scenic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains more accessible.
Having pedestrian malls spanning the campus is nothing new — the 1953 and 1963 LRDPs included minor plans for open-air corridors. However, the 2025 malls are designed on a much larger scale, Alissa Hummer, a senior planner with the Office of Campus Planning and Design, said.
For example, Hummer said, students sitting at the Arbor will have an unobstructed view of the Pacific.
The LRDP looks to create a more straightforward, organized university that artfully incorporates the natural landscape of Goleta, Hummer said. This design, she said, will employ a classical grid shape as the backbone of the university’s layout.
“Right now, the campus is much more jumbled than it will be in 2025,” Hummer, an author of the LRDP, said. “The idea is to recreate the campus in a grid pattern to allow for creating broad pedestrian malls that take advantage of the views.”
In order to open these broad vistas across the university, Hummer said, one-story buildings and temporary structures have got to go. In addition to obstructing views, she said many of the buildings are antiquated and date back to WWII.
“The only things targeted for potential removal are one story buildings — old Marine Corps buildings, mostly,” Hummer said. “There are a fair number of one-story temporary buildings, WWII buildings that we don’t have a huge investment in any more.”
Piecing the Plan Together
According to Tye Simpson, Director of the office of Campus Planning and Design, the projected 1.8 million square feet of development laid out in the 2008 LRDP is designed to bolster UCSB’s ranks with an additional 5,500 bed spaces for students and 1,800 bed spaces for faculty and staff by 2025.
Housing, Hummer said, is undeniably the biggest focus of the multi-layered LRDP.
“Each new long range plan is reflective of the year it was written,” Hummer said. “The goal of most of the [preceding] plans was mostly academic buildings… arguably the most significant emphasis of the vision 2025 plan was housing.”
Since 1949, when the Regents of the University of California first purchased the 408-acre land parcel from the Marine Corps, UCSB has undergone eight previous LRDPs. The university currently consists of 1,055 acres and more than 20,000 students, with on-campus housing provided to 35 percent of the student body.
Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said the prospective LRDP is equipped with an explosion of new housing necessary to meet the university’s latest goal of providing on-campus housing to all new students by 2025. This means 50 percent of all students enrolled at UCSB will live on campus by that time, Lucas said.
On another front, future transportation developments will usher in increased usage of alternative modes of transportation on campus. An extended bike route system is recommended in the plan, along with the introduction of additional on- and off-campus bike parking lots and improvements to El Colegio Road’s layout.
Additionally, the LRDP promises an aggressive commitment to conservation and water reuse to cut water costs. Since more than 90 percent of campus irrigation water is currently recycled, a large-scale revamp is unnecessary. UCSB will instead continue to partner with regional water companies to ensure that enough water will be supplied to the larger 2025 campus.
All the parts of the plan, Lucas said, build on each other to make UCSB a visually stunning and unique campus.
“Our plans have always been based on a thoughtful academic plan,” Lucas said in an e-mail. “Today we recognize our opportunities to build on tremendous strengths in interdisciplinary research and a physical location that provides not only a wonderful place to live and work, but unique research and educational opportunities.”
An Impact on Isla Vista
“UC Santa Barbara’s growth extends beyond the campus borders,” the LRDP states.
For the university, space is quickly becoming a commodity as its borders swell toward Isla Vista. To address this issue, the administration worked in close partnership with the Isla Vista community to author the I.V. Master Plan, the first comprehensive physical plan for the development of the campus neighborhood.
Adopted by county officials in 2007, the Master Plan was developed and funded in part by the university, as well as the County Redevelopment Agency and the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District. Designed to accompany the LRDP, the Master Plan is structured to create a direct interface between the campus and Isla Vista, namely through the planned demolition of the Pardall Tunnel.
Faraz Homayouni, a third-year global studies major and manager of Sam’s To Go, said he was skeptical of the plans.
“Honestly, I.V. is a small town,” Homayouni said, “I don’t know why you are cramming 5,000 more people around it. It’s gonna be way more packed in than it should be.”
According to Dave Bearman, former 3rd District supervisor candidate and longtime Isla Vista resident, the development of the campus and I.V. has gone too far.
“In some ways you are really beginning to fill up the campus,” Bearman said. “[UCSB will] lose the campus-by-the-sea aspect and move towards an urbanized feel.”
However, Lucas said the university has long been a boon to Isla Vista, Goleta and Santa Barbara.
“I think we have had a tremendous positive influence on the Santa Barbara community over our history, providing an economic driving force as well as the many cultural, athletic and intellectual experiences that we offer the community,” Lucas said.
Due to its oceanfront location, most of the UCSB campus falls subject to the scrutiny of the California Coastal Commission under the California Coastal Act. If the environmentally-minded policies of the Coastal Act conflict with the “Vision 2025” plan, Hummer said, the LRDP could be stalled – although she doesn’t foresee this happening.
“We’ve been careful to craft the plan within the policies of the Coastal Act,” Hummer said. “These policies are open to interpretation, so the future is pretty unknowable but we have been considering the Coastal Act throughout our whole planning and writing process.”
Several years ago, Chancellor Henry T. Yang appointed Lucas, the executive vice chancellor, as chair of the LRDP Working Group to create a plan for new development at UCSB. The working group, helmed by Lucas, spent nearly four years drafting the “Vision 2025” plan, Hummer said.
In March of 2008 — after campus planners consulted with the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara as well as county officials, utility companies, and citizen groups — the LRDP was released, along with an accompanying Environmental Impact Report. According to the “Vision 2025” plan, more than 50 meetings and presentations on the LRDP have been held since Apr. 23, 2007, so that various interest groups could offer their input.
With the public review process of the “Vision 2025” plan LRDP now finished, the document now awaits approval by the UC Regents before it can be sent to the California Coastal Commission for review and final approval.
According to Hummer, before the LRDP draft can be discussed as an action item by the regents, the EIR requires a slight revision to its water, transportation, air quality, population and housing plans, although most changes will be trivial. Once the EIR is squared away, she said, the LRDP is on track for potential 2009 approval.
“The regents are the next step, but before we get to that, the EIR,” Hummer said. “After that, the plan has to go to the Coastal Commission.”
While plans for the future of UCSB seem to be successfully underway, Chancellor Yang said, the LRDP is still pending approval, and anything could happen.
“It is important to emphasize that we are in the midst of broad consultation, and that at this point this is only a proposal and draft,” Yang said in an email. “We have a long way to go yet.”