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UCSB’s Ocean Road Housing Project Draws Criticism

Some speakers question the project's timing with the Long Range Development Plan; other concerns center on affordability, sustainability and outreach.

Though only a few people attended UCSB‘s Environmental Impact Report scoping meeting last Thursday for its Ocean Road Housing Project, the reaction from the small but vocal crowd was not particularly positive.

The Ocean Road project would be a 532-unit housing, commercial and academic project spread out over 12 blocks at the university’s western border with Isla Vista, along both sides of Ocean Road. It would be geared primarily toward providing badly needed housing for UCSB faculty and staff, as well as the future need for housing projected by the university’s Long Range Development Plan. Buildings would range in height from two to six stories, with units that vary from studios to three-bedroom townhouses.

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Additionally, 2,600 square feet of the development would be dedicated to commercial space and 54,400 square feet for student space. More than a thousand parking spaces are proposed to handle the new residential and commercial operations in the area.

To be able to lay out its buildings, UCSB would have to realign Ocean Road and relocate the Student Health Center in the area. The eucalyptus windrow that runs along the proposed project would be removed.

Much of the criticism on Thursday night centered on the project’s timing. The Ocean Road project is part of the UCSB Long Range Development Plan, which has not yet been completed, and is running on its own separate track: Rejection or delay in the approval of the LRDP would not necessarily affect the progress of the Ocean Road project.

“Review of the proposed Ocean Road Housing project is premature because it relies on an amendment to the university’s existing LRDP that has not been approved by the Regents or certified by the California Coastal Commission,” local resident George Relles said on behalf of the Santa Barbara County Action Network, a group monitoring local housing issues. Furthermore, he said, considering the project outside of the LRDP would result in piecemeal review, which is prohibited under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The review of the Ocean Road project in parallel with the LRDP is not that uncommon, said Tye Simpson, UCSB director of campus planning and design.

“It’s the same kind of process you would use in updating a General Plan,” he later told Noozhawk. It would be piecemeal, he said, only if the project wasn’t part of the bigger UCSB development effort.

Other speakers, mostly students, touched on what the new project would do to the problem of gentrification of the student enclave. Development companies are gearing their projects to more affluent students, they said. Working-class families have been forced out of their apartments to make way for housing students who can afford to pay more rent.

Yet others called on the university to adhere to the sustainability principles it adopted when it formed its Campus Sustainability Committee, and apply them to the communities surrounding UCSB, such as Goleta and Isla Vista, not just the campus.

Many took issue with the seeming lack of outreach performed by the university, saying they weren’t even aware of the project and that the public hearings were being scheduled at inopportune times.

The Ocean Road housing project is still in its planning stages. Public comment on what the scope of the EIR should be will be taken up Dec. 20. A planning scherrette with AS Bikes and the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition will be held in mid-December to discuss the bicycle and pedestrian circulation in that heavily used area.

Click here to see the plans for the proposed project and to make comments.

Write to [email protected]

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