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UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan Soon Will Go to UC Regents for Vote

Despite the economy and its effects on processing the plan, officials say the goals remain the same

After months of delays, UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan seems poised to make it to the University of California Regents for their approval. Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas presented the Goleta City Council and the public with an update on the plan during Tuesday evening’s council meeting.

After weathering what he called the university’s “budget wreck” that led to a reduced staff and delays in processing the LRDP, which was supposed to have made it to the Regents last September, Lucas said that while the LRDP’s goals remain the same — the addition of 5,000 students, with the concurrent rise in faculty and staff — what has changed, because of the economy, was the schedule.

“We don’t really see for the University of California as a whole — and certainly for Santa Barbara — any growth at all until after 2014,” he said.

Currently, instead of the 1 percent per year student enrollment increase anticipated by the university in better days, the UC system has had to cut student enrollment. Next fall, the numbers are expected to come in nearly a 1,000 students fewer than last fall’s numbers, and for the university, which has lost more than $100 million from its budget during the last two years, enrollment is expected to remain flat for the next few years as the state climbs out of its budget problems.

Meanwhile, the university has been trying to close the gap on several issues Goleta has had with its proposed development plans, which will add more people to the Goleta Valley, and is expected to put additional burdens on the city’s resources and infrastructure, such as the timing of the additional housing, congestion of local roads, and effects on fire and police services. Lucas said the university is working with the city on “a path of convergence” on these and other issues.

There doesn’t seem to be enough convergence when it comes to timing, however. Goleta’s officials expressed discomfort with the notion that the plan and its associated environmental impact report haven’t fully addressed the city’s concerns, but both are scheduled to go to the Regents before the city or the public will have time to review the documents, or complete negotiations on any strategies.

“It’s a mistake to go in July until you have us on board,” Goleta Councilman Roger Aceves said.

The LRDP, though it plans to contain all of the additional population and development within the campus footprint, as well as implement improved design standards, was the focus of outcry from several community groups during the three years it has been before the public. Five chapters of the development plan had to be revised and recirculated in the spring of 2008, chapters that dealt with air quality, transportation, wastewater, water and housing. 

Meanwhile, issues such as how the LRDP might provide for mitigations in terms of financial support for the public transit system, or how it might deal with housing, were still matters of concern for public speakers at the meeting.

“There’s no resolution as to impacts on transit,” said Sherri Fisher of the Metropolitan Transit District.

It’s a tough situation for Goleta, as the university is one of the region’s largest employers with an economic impact of more than $1 billion. In the Goleta Valley, the university is also responsible for much of the high-tech industry and manpower. However, the city also will have challenges with the increased population in its efforts toward complying with Senate Bill 375, the law that is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. UCSB is exempt from complying with that legislation.

Lucas said the LRDP package should be ready to go by the end of the week, and that he would take the city’s concerns over timing to UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang.

If the LRDP receives approval from the Regents, it would then go before the California Coastal Commission.

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

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