UC Santa Barbara students have very, very limited options when it comes to parking.
Parking in Isla Vista at night leaves the danger of being towed or having a drunk student drive a Bird into your car; purchasing a daytime on-campus parking permit for the year costs over $600 out of pocket, while night and weekend parking permits are limited to specific hours – if you don’t move your car on time, you face upwards of a $40 ticket.
But in Spring Quarter 2003, UCSB students approved a $3.33 fee on the ballot that promised “free” night and weekend parking permits at no additional cost other than the $3.33 per quarter. The permits allow students to park Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., and all day Saturday and Sunday.
At the time that the $3.33 ballot fee was proposed, TPS announced they would begin charging $2 for visitor parking during nights and weekends. As an “alternative,” the $3.33 per quarter fee was proposed “in order to continue providing night and weekend parking for students.”
For the next five years, until around 2008, the permits were provided to students at no additional cost other than the $3.33 fee, according to Transportation and Parking Services (TPS) Director Nestor Covarrubias.
But it’s 2019, and students are still paying that $3.33 per quarter fee – without the free night and weekend parking.
For the past 11 years, students have had to pay money on top of the $3.33 per quarter fee if they want night and weekend parking.
The $3.33 fee is currently being used to “partially cover” the full cost of a night and weekend parking permit, which stands at $160 for community members and $52.50 for students for three quarters, Covarrubias said in an email to the Nexus.
If that fee went away, students would pay the full $160, he confirmed.
It was the discovery that the initial ballot language promised students “free” night and weekend parking that prompted A.S. President Brooke Kopel to post on her personal Facebook on April 22, encouraging UCSB students to vote no on the TPS $3.33 reaffirmation fee that was on the Spring Quarter 2019 ballot.
“I have attempted to re-implement this free night and weekend parking that TPS has promised us. In conversations with A.S. staff, I have discovered that over the years since this lock-in was passed, TPS claims that the $3.33 fee is just no longer enough to supplement free night and weekend parking due to their own institutional growth and expansion,” Kopel said in the post.
“BUT that is not what YOU pay for. YOU pay for FREE night and weekend parking. Not subsidized night and weekend parking.”
In an interview with the Nexus, Kopel explained that her predecessor, former A.S. President Hieu Le, attempted to “strong arm” TPS into providing students with free night and weekend parking toward the end of his term by asking A.S. Executive Director Marisela Márquez not to give TPS the money collected by student fees.
Once Kopel took office, she said she was told by Márquez that A.S. cannot legally withhold that money from TPS.
“Because it’s ballot language that was voted on and approved by the student body that this money will be paid to TPS, even though they’re not giving exactly what the ballot language says, Marisela can’t just withhold funds that students voted on giving to a department,” Kopel said.
“I think it’s really, really irresponsible of Associated Students to be letting students pay $10 a year for a service they are not receiving. $10 could be a few meals, $10 could go to rent, $10 could go to gas, to books.”
This past Thursday, the fee was reaffirmed with 3901 yeses, or 71.79%, and 1533 noes, or 28.21%. It cannot be voted on again until Spring Quarter 2021.
If A.S. was “open to the idea,” Covarrubias said, “TPS could come up with an updated rate to provide the undergraduate Night & Weekend permit at no additional cost.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the May 2, 2019 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Updated [1:15 p.m.]