The university’s plan to expand enrollment by 5,000 students during the next 15 years has been under way for years, but the growth needed to accommodate the school’s expansion has been the subject of debate.
Tuesday’s agreements approved by the county supervisors will have to be accepted by officials from the City of Goleta as well as the school’s Board of Regents, which will meet next week to discuss the compromise.
UCSB falls outside the county’s jurisdiction and is classified as a state agency. The county has no authority to issue or deny permits to allow for the school’s growth. The only recourse it has is to negotiate with the school or seek litigation, and Tuesday’s meeting proved that the county is willing to move forward with compromise.
The supervisors looked specifically at four agreements with UCSB: The school’s impact on Isla Vista, law enforcement, fire protection and traffic impacts were all part of the discussion.
The school’s last long-range development plan, drafted in 1990, capped enrollment at 20,000 students. In addition to the increase to 25,000 students, the new LRDP calls for an additional 1,700 faculty to accompany the increase in students. School officials have said they expect to house all of the students, as well as staff. UCSB also has said it’s aiming for an additional 1.8 million square feet of academic space.
Among the issues in the four agreements, one arises with the fact that UCSB doesn’t provide any funding for the staffing of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, and it doesn’t provide property tax payments for fire services.
County planner Dianne Black said “UCSB’s growth would exacerbate staffing needs and funding shortfalls” at County Fire Station 17, on the UCSB campus. Likewise with the 28 police officers employed by the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, seven of whom patrol the campus. Additional officers would be needed as the school expands.
Traffic effects are also expected to increase in a big way, and to mitigate the numbers of trips taken by students, the county is asking the school to pay $3.1 million for traffic improvements in the area.
The county and the city didn’t initially agree with UCSB’s traffic counts, and the county thought “they were quite a bit higher” than projected, Black said.
As development occurs, the school will monitor traffic generation. If the school exceeds its estimate, which it expects to amount to 2,170 peak hour trips, the school will have to pay a hefty fee for each trip over. Black said the fee amounts to $14,215 per trip. UCSB also would need to provide an in-lieu fee for any property tax fee on units leased by faculty, but not sold. The university also has agreed to replace Fire Station 17 if it needs to demolish it for expansion.
UCSB has agreed to provide two additional positions if more hours are needed for foot patrol, and it has agreed to provide the county with $3.6 million for circulation improvements within Isla Vista.
Discussions began on the LRDP when the project’s environmental documents were first released in 2008. Negotiations among the City of Goleta, the county and UCSB began in September 2009 and continued until just a few days ago, according to Black. Final actions by the UCSB Board of Regents are expected by Sept. 16.
Concerns were raised during Tuesday’s public comment period about all facets of the potential growth, with one of the most repeated being concerns about water.
Richard Flacks, representing the community group Sustainable University Now, or SUN, said the plan had a number of unsettled issues, including water usage. He cited a disagreement between the university and the Goleta Water District on how much water would actually be needed.
The board doesn’t have permitting authority over the project plan or water usage, and approval of water will rest with the GWD. Bill Rosen, president of the Goleta Water District, said the group has been directly involved with university discussions, even submitting a 40-page letter of comments on the water issue.
“We have advised the university that the LRDP and EIR have not dealt with the water issues satisfactorily,” he said.
UCSB spokesman Marc Fisher said Tuesday that there had been “a lot of give and take” so far among UCSB, the county and Goleta. He also addressed water.
“Obviously, we don’t want to strain the water supply like anybody else,” Fisher said.
Several speakers urged the board not to rush into a decision, but Fisher said the regents are meeting next week and the university is trying to get the agreement wrapped up before it approves a 10-year capital plan, which is approaching quickly.
Even though the county supervisors signed off on the issue, the LRDP can’t be approved by the regents without the City of Goleta agreeing to the terms.
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at email@example.com.