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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 9:22 pm | Fair 36º


UCSB, County Harden Stance Over Long-Range Plans

So far, both sides are far apart on the size of the required mitigations

UCSB’s Long-Range Development Plan was the center of attention Tuesday afternoon as the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors took in a staff presentation and public comment on the project’s environmental documents.

According to UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas, the university and the county are deadlocked on the subject of mitigations UCSB should provide for the impacts expected as a result of the proposed development.

“We haven’t closed the gap between what the county is seeking in mitigations and what we feel is our fair share,” said Lucas, who added that some of the numbers on which the county is basing its projections came from a flawed study.

UCSB’s current LRDP calls for development on the campus to accommodate a total student body of 25,000 by 2025, up from about 20,000 today. On the academic side, UCSB will be adding buildings and repositioning others on campus while constructing additional housing to accommodate the students and the faculty and staff needed to support them. The LRDP’s recirculated environmental impact report has lately been the subject of scrutiny by local agencies and jurisdictions.

UCSB, one of the South Coast’s largest employers, is estimated to account for 10 percent of the local economy, resulting in an estimated impact of $1 billion per year. As a state agency, the university is not subject to all the development rules of local jurisdictions, but officials have tried to maintain open relations with surrounding communities.

Given the student population’s proposed increase by 5,000, county staff estimated that about 15,000 people (including the new students) will move to the area as a result: faculty, staff, families and the people needed to support the population and provide services.

Some of the main concerns county staff had tackled were a potential lag period between the increased enrollment and the housing to be provided by UCSB, as well as the increased noise and traffic in the area. Other issues county staff reported involved hazardous waste, blufftop retreat at one of its project sites, and degradation of the Goleta Slough.

“Facilities are going to need improvement,” said Derek Johnson, deputy director at the county’s Planning Department. There would also have to be a commensurate increase in the number of police and firefighters needed to service the increased population, he said.

According to Johnson, the total cost estimate for the capital improvements the county would need to make to serve the campus at current levels comes out to $137 million in one-time costs, and $8.2 million annually to maintain.

The disparity between UCSB’s estimates for mitigation and the county’s are stark at times. The county, for instance, estimates a need for $90 million in road improvements, the university, according to county calculations, is acknowledging a need for $1.9 million of road improvements in its mitigations.

Members of the public, meanwhile, turned out to comment on the staff report and the development plan’s recirculated comments.

“We already have serious problems in IV that remain unaddressed,” said Dianne Conn, president of the Isla Vista Recreation & Park District. Other commenters, like Heal the Ocean’s Hilary Hauser, aired concerns that the increased wastewater flow had not been adequately addressed.

The increase in cars was another issue as Caltrans planner Larry Newland suggested that freshmen not be able to have cars on campus, an idea Lucas said could not happen unless there were an Isla Vista Parking Plan to handle the vehicles parked off-campus.

Other UC towns, like Berkeley and Santa Cruz, said Lucas, agreed to far less in mitigations for their most recent LRDPs, including “a few million” in one-time capital costs and about $1 million annually to maintain. Those amounts were the result of litigation between the cities and UC, he said, adding that UCSB was not interested in going that route.

“We’d like to sit down at the table and work that out,” he said.

The county has less than a week to submit its comments for the recirculated EIR; comment period closes Monday.

“I’m hoping we can continue and improve the dialogue between the university and the county,” said 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district encompasses the campus.

Click here for more information on UCSB’s Long-Range Development Plan, or to comment on the recirculated environmental impact report.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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