Wednesday, April 2, 2008

UCSB reveals plans for growth


A proposed increase of 5,000 students at UC Santa Barbara and the resulting domino effect of growth that could result received mixed reviews from the Board of Supervisors yesterday.
The discussion was sparked by the school’s Long Range Development Plan, which was presented to the board by school officials and outlines growth at the seaside campus through the year 2025. It includes an increase of 1.8 million square feet of new construction and more than 7,000 bed spaces for faculty and students.

Though the board voted unanimously to receive the report, all of the supervisors said this type of growth, while dubbed “manageable” by UCSB, would place an immitigable burden on county infrastructure.
Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray said failure on behalf of the county and the school to recognize the impacts of this growth “defies reason.”
Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone, whose district includes UCSB and the neighboring community of Isla Vista, pointed out that a private development of this magnitude wouldn’t see the light of day in Santa Barbara County.
“I think any commercial project of this scale, or housing project of this scale would simply be non acceptable to the county,” he said. “I think we need to take a long look at this.”
County staff has 45 days to issue a response to the school — a timeframe that could be extended to 90 days if UCSB grants the county’s request for an extension.
In the meantime, a meeting is scheduled for April 29 at Embarcadero Hall in Isla Vista, where the public will have the opportunity to comment on the plan.
UCSB Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said after all public comments have been gathered and responded to, the plan and its accompanying environmental impact report will be sent to the UC Regents and the California Coastal Commission for review. He said the school hopes to send the plan to the UC Regents by September.
As it’s proposed, the plan calls for a 1 percent increase in student population over the next 17 years, which would bring the total number of students from 20,000 to 25,000.
Lucas said this rate of growth is the smallest for any UC school and is on par with the rate of growth occurring on the South Coast. According to Lucas, the UC system is required in the state’s master plan to enroll 12.5 percent of all graduating seniors in California — a statistic he said requires UC schools to grow.
Accompanying the 5,000 students would be 1,400 additional staff employees, 300 faculty members and an increase of 3,653 parking spaces.
Lucas said the supervisors’ concerns about mitigation efforts are addressed in the Development Plan’s environmental impact report.
He said the brunt of mitigation focuses on housing and traffic, both of which are addressed in part through building more housing on campus.
“[The board’s] concerns are warranted but I think we’ve tried to address those,” Lucas said.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf questioned the impact the increased campus population would have on emergency services, such as fire, police and mental health.
But Lucas said the school already provides mental health services on site, has its own police department and county fire engines are housed on campus in a facility provided by the university.
Furthermore, he said it’s not as if UCSB, which is one of the largest employers in the county, doesn’t give back to the community — a fact he said separates the school from any other developer.
First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said UCSB’s contributions to the community aren’t lost on him, and asked county staff to look into how student and faculty housing at UCSB could count toward alleviating state mandated housing requirements.
Lucas said the school is looking forward to receiving the public’s comments and eventually moving forward with the Development Plan, which has not been updated since 1990 and has been under construction for five years.
Fifth District Supervisor Joe Centeno said he understands UCSB is an asset to the community, but has also grown frustrated with students; many of whom he said reside in the area for a short time and leave.
One of the things Centeno said particularly irks him is the renowned annual Halloween bash that puts a significant dent in the county’s pocket book. In 2006, the county budgeted $228,000 to handle the Halloween bash.
“It’s going to be a tremendous impact in an area that’s already impacted,” Centeno said of the plan.
The Development Plan is available at

No comments: