Hector Sanchez Castaneda
Isla Vista Beat Reporter
Isla Vista stakeholders met Tues., Jan. 12 for their weekly meeting to discuss the role a Community Services District (CSD) would have in improving the current parking system in the community. Members from the county and university as well as IV residents mulled over the pros and cons of several approaches to the problem, including a permit program and vehicle regulation from the university; but the conversation ended with an agreement that more deliberation was needed.
“The point of these meetings has been to kind of flesh out the services so we can be prepared when we go before LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) and talk about what we want to see and how we want to see it provided,” Darcel Elliott, District Director for the Office of Assemblymember Das Williams, said.
AB 3 gives a CSD in Isla Vista the power to form a parking district — giving the entity more control over the management of parking in general.
“We held a meeting here in IV in early October [of last year] and we talked about what the current parking plan is in the IV Master Plan update, which right now revolves around a parking monitoring program,” Matthew Schneider, Deputy Director of the County’s Long Range Planning Division, said. “It would require surveying parking conditions on an annual basis, and when it hits a certain threshold … that would implement a parking program.”
The survey project was adjusted after hearing citizens’ concerns of the methodology used, and is scheduled to go before the County Board of Supervisors in early March of this year, according to Schneider.
After a brief overview of the county’s work on parking in IV, University of California, Santa Barbara alum and Vice President of the IV Downtown Business Association Jay Freeman gave a presentation on the history of a failed parking program in IV — going back over a decade in time.
In 2003 and 2004, IV stakeholders, UCSB Associated Students, Surfrider Foundation, business owners and residents held numerous meetings to discuss IV’s parking situation, according to Freeman’s findings.
In the proposal that emerged from these meetings, IV would be divided into three zones: a single-family housing zone, a high-density housing zone and a commercial zone, with different parking mechanisms, such as permits, implemented in each one; however, the final proposal approved by the county only included the high-density housing zone alongside the commercial zone.
“It was almost a surprise to everyone that it did not have the three areas,” Freeman said. “It suddenly got cut down to two without any … public input.”
This change brought forth appeals from IV resident Bruce Murdoch and the Surfrider Foundation to the county. When the county denied their appeals, Murdoch and the Surfrider Foundation decided to appeal to the California Coastal Commission, which has the final say on the matter. Murdoch argued that the removed single-family housing zone would be inundated with cars and intrude upon the “character and integrity” of the neighborhood. The Surfrider Foundation argued that coastal access would become overcrowded. In the end, the Coastal Commission stopped the county’s parking program.
Freeman also presented the idea of implementing an automatic license plate recognition program, and attempted to dispel the county’s hesitation to embrace the costs of implementation by giving an example of a how much the cities of Salinas and Sacramento spent on their programs.
“Most of the costs were set up costs,” Freeman said. “The actual costs of the automatic license plate service were almost nothing, the cost of the driver was almost nothing, the cost of everything later was almost nothing.”
A representative from the Surfrider Foundation presented a short draft for a permit-based parking program. The draft included possible sources of funding from the county and university, and proposed to use UCSB students majoring in relevant fields to conduct monitoring services of the program in exchange for credits.
Attendees then started discussing how permits would be distributed to residents under the jurisdiction of a CSD.
“I just think that it is going to be very difficult for residents who are not on the lease to get these parking permits,” Third year history of public policy major and External Vice President for Local Affairs Paola Dela Cruz said.
Dela Cruz shared hesitation at the additional bureaucratic step of changing one’s driver’s license address to match their IV residence, and how it could adversely affect undocumented residents. Elliott also mentioned that for this system to work, the CSD’s database would have to be in sync with the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s database, further complicating matters.
“It seems very simple for me to be doing those things but I need to check my own privilege,” Dela Cruz said. “I’m thinking of my own family. What if my mom and dad live here in IV? How would they go about this situation? For one they’d be concerned about the costs. Two we don’t just have one car, we are a family, we have multiple cars … I know some of the familias here who don’t have just one car. They have a van and the mom has a smaller car. I just feel like we are creating steps that are not making it easier for them to [get parking].”
Attendees continued the conversation with questions of how the CSD would know how many people live in a specific residence for permit distribution issues, the pricing of CSD parking compared to landlord’s prices, and a carshare program. The meeting ended abruptly after a back and forth exchange on whether UCSB could regulate first-year’s vehicle use.