Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sympathy for The Plan

[ Excerpt from: "A Not-so-Simple Plan," y Matthew Weisner, DAILY NEXUS, May 23, 2007

... Isla Vista is nearing a period of unparalleled growth and development that promises to change the face of this beachside community for years to come... the creation and implementation of the 736-page-long Isla Vista Master Plan will encourage an entirely new change. It changes zoning codes, gives I.V. a downtown facelift and updates parks and roadways throughout I.V. to streamline transportation.

... if it is approved, the project... could result in new two- to three-story buildings in I.V. as well as a refurbished soccer field and a new skate park.

One of the most prominent ideas in the IVMP is a publicly funded facelift for the “downtown” I.V. area. This plan would connect Pardall Road to Anisq’ Oyo’ Park with a passageway known as a “paseo,” which acts as a walkway for pedestrians. This facelift would establish Anisq’ Oyo’ as both a central point and corridor between apartments and marketplaces in I.V. The plan provides Pardall with widened sidewalks and bike lanes to encourage pedestrian access and safe bicycling.

The IVMP also aims to revamp the faade of the properties on Pardall Road, transforming its current stores into multiple story “mixed use” buildings, with retail stores on the first floors and housing above. In addition, the IVMP outlines the creation of similar “mixed use” buildings along the Embarcadero loop.

The creation of these structures will require changes to current zoning laws, and despite resistance from some residents who are wary of allowing such sizable construction in I.V., planners believe the zoning changes are an integral part of the IVMP.

Deputy Director of the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency Jamie Goldstein, who has presided over several Master Plan meetings, said the changes would make downtown more accessible and help make Anisq’ Oyo’ Park a social center of Isla Vista.

“Narrowing Pardall to cars and making it more bicycle and pedestrian friendly will make that area a cool spot to come shop and hang out,” Goldstein said. “It will give businesses more sides, and make going downtown easier for everyone.”

Lou Ventura, a seat holder on the Isla Vista Project Area Committee - the committee charged with creating the IVMP - and owner of property management company Ventura Enterprises, said the challenge would be convincing property owners to pull the trigger on remodels and redevelopments...

Imagining the journey from the 6700 block of Sabado Tarde Road to Freebirds without having to walk in the middle of the street is difficult to comprehend for most Isla Vistans. However, the IVPAC claims the IVMP will improve pedestrian safety throughout I.V. with the construction of new sidewalks in areas such as Camino Pescadero, Sueno and Sabado Tarde Roads.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to resolve the overcrowded intersections of Pardall Road and the two halves of the Embarcadero Loop, the Plan seeks to add large roundabouts. The planners hope the roundabouts will ease traffic conflicts between bicycles and cars.

Currently, the preferred plan for improving traffic flow on El Colegio Road involves roundabouts at all major intersections, and improved sidewalks and bus stops all along the road. Goldstein said one of the possible solutions involves a consolidation of bus routes that would allow for more frequent public transit through I.V.

New zoning laws would allow more than a thousand additional units to the I.V. community - including low- and moderate-income housing in accordance with California State law and the Santa Barbara County’s Inclusionary Housing Program.

According to the law, new I.V. developments of five or more units must allocate at least 25 percent of the total units to affordable housing. Technically speaking, a unit that allows the tenant to spend less than 30 percent of their total income on housing is considered affordable, Goldstein said.

“The plan makes it easier for the private sector to come build and develop,” Goldstein said. “It should result in more affordable housing and increased property tax revenue that can be used only in I.V.”

However, Associated Students External Vice President of Local Affairs Joel Rodriguez-Flores, who currently holds a seat on the IVPAC, said the effects are uncertain.

“I think it will have a mixed impact,” he said. “It will make it possible for more development of affordable housing and also increased revenues for Isla Vista, but it could also increase property values because of the renovations.”

According to the IVMP outline, the Master Plan seeks to “incorporate an appropriate amount of affordable housing within the community. Housing opportunities would be provided for families, students, university faculty and staff and area workers within Isla Vista.”

In addition, the County Redevelopment Agency will see increased revenues - currently about $2 million per year - with which they will fund the public projects outlined in the plan.

The changes introduced by the plan could lead to between 800 and 1400 new units throughout I.V., according to Kris Miller-Fisher, executive staff assistant to 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone.

“There hasn’t been the financial impetus for developers to build this much in the past,” Fisher said. “That could change with the passage of the Master Plan.”

Although the IVPAC had their plan for a parking permit program shot down earlier this year, the IVMP seeks to alleviate the severe lack of parking through a multifaceted approach.

First, the plan would install metered parking and minimize the number of red curbs along Pardall Road. Additional spaces could be obtained by negotiating for shared use of surplus spaces, particularly from private lots that planners believe are under-utilized. The combination of these efforts would add anywhere from 200 to 300 spaces to the greater downtown area.

Goldstein said the county hopes to eventually construct a parking structure to serve the downtown I.V. area. An underground parking lot is also being considered, depending on what space is available.

“The parking agency is in negotiation with land owners about a possible purchase for underground parking in I.V.” Goldstein said. “But it’s just too early to know where or how large scale it would be.”

In addition to the extra parking spaces, the IVMP could create a new community center, tentatively located at Estero Park, so long as the plan’s Environmental Impact Report - a document that details the possible environmental hazards associated with construction - is approved

This community center would include a nearby skate park, new basketball courts and a soccer field. The Isla Vista Recreation and Park District, a five-member board which assists in developmental oversight, will fund construction of the new playing field in part with a $1 million grant it received from the State of California for new athletic fields.

IVRPD General Manager Dale Sumersille said soccer fields would be constructed first and the basketball courts and skate park would follow. In the meantime, IVRPD and active community members would attempt to accommodate the athletic facilities, the community gardens and the community center all within the confines of Estero Park.

Although Goldstein predicts sending the IVMP to the County Board of Supervisors for approval as early as this summer, the plan must also be approved by the California Coastal Commission, which will determine whether the environmental impact of the plan is acceptable - a process that could take up to 18 months.

IVRPD Vice-Chairman and PAC seat holder Ken Warfield said he was confident that the plan was environmentally conscious, but unsure of CCC’s future decision.

“You never know with the Coastal Commission because they think we have a single constituency,” Warfield said, referring to the greater UCSB community. “It depends on what UCSB’s development plan is.”

IVRPD member Diane Conn said the environmental impacts of the IVMP projects would increase the challenges I.V. currently faces.

“The plan proposes to increase the density of I.V. 20 percent, so you have all the same problems we do now up 20 percent,” Conn said. “There will be impacts to noise, parking, social and police services.”

While some individuals disagree with the Isla Vista Master Plan, all can agree that a monumental amount of time has been spent on it. Goldstein and board members have held more than 50 meetings about the plan and have spent countless hours planning and debating the future of I.V.

The process of creating the IVMP began in 2000...


For full text of this article, along with images of what is envisioned, please go to:

DN: Not So Simple Plan

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