The grand opening of an environmentally-friendly parking lot in Isla Vista brought out local politicians and community members in celebration yesterday.
The $760,000 parking structure on the corner of Pardall Road and Embarcadero Del Mar features a number of innovative green design aspects, including solar panels, “rain gardens” for automatic irrigation, biofilters that clean pollutants before they reach the ocean, a seating area made from local sandstone and several electric vehicle charging stations. The parking lot is the latest undertaking in the series of community projects outlined in the Isla Vista Master Plan.
According to Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Manager Jeff Lindgren, the green elements in the lot represent a vital step toward creating a more environmentally and financially sustainable Isla Vista community.
“Green technology just makes a lot of sense,” Lindgren said. “Not just for the green aspects but financially. We’re looking at a cost savings for all the green aspects of at least $100,000 in water and power savings just from everything that we’ve included in this project. We thought of how we could create a structure that is economically and environmentally sustainable — this is an example of that.”
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said she believes similar projects will benefit Santa Barbara businesses and tourism.
“It increases the spaces that we have for parking, particularly here in the downtown area,” Farr said. “It improves the business opportunities for property owners here, makes it easier for people to come from outside the area to visit Isla Vista and go to the restaurants and enjoy the different things that Isla Vista has to offer,” Farr said.
Lindgren said that construction of the site focused on the containment of the pollutants left from the gas station that previously occupied the vacant space.
“Before it was an old gas station site that stood here vacant for 15 years, dirty and weedy, and now it’s something that’s actually useful for the community,” Lindgren said.
According to Susan Van Atta, a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, it takes years to remove the toxins left from gas stations that make the earth uninhabitable for plant life. The Pardall lot managed to incorporate greenery by planting no deeper than eight inches and planting trees in raised soil.
“Trees are important for shade, but we can’t have trees in the parking lot except for these raised planters,” Van Atta said. “I suggested that they have the solar panels in the arbor instead of trees. … This shades cars so that they don’t heat up and release more hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.”
The 17 kilowatt solar panels provide enough electricity to power the lot’s lights, parking meter, future electric vehicle parking stations and even part of Pardall Road.
Environmental Affairs Board Co-Chair Violetta Muselli said the parking lot demonstrates the importance of building environmentally-friendly infrastructure in I.V.
“I think it’s great that students and community members of Isla Vista can see the solar panels because they can see directly in their faces that sustainability is an option being used in our community and that renewable energy is the future because it certainly is,” Muselli said.
Future projects under the Master Plan include the creation of additional bike parking, streetlights and a new drainage system to improve flooding.