Monday, May 21 , 2018, 4:55 am | Fair 52º

 
 
 
 

Olivia Uribe: New Coalition Responds to UCSB’s Development Plan

SUN group aims to ensure proposed campus changes really shine.

UCSB, Santa Barbara County’s largest employer, has announced a new Long-Range Development Plan that by 2025 would add 5,000 new students, 350 faculty positions, hundreds of new staff positions and other employees to provide services to the new students, faculty and staff.

Olivia Uribe
Olivia Uribe
What would the impacts be on our community? To explore these issues the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN) convened a series of meetings, leading to the formation of a new coalition called Sustainable University Now (SUN). SUN, which includes an impressive array of community and environmental organizations such as the Community Environmental Council and the League of Women Voters, seeks to encourage wide community participation in reviewing and responding to the plans for UCSB’s expansion. SUN members emphasize that they do not seek to oppose the university’s future development, but rather to improve it. They urge careful scrutiny of the LDRP draft Environmental Impact Report, which is expected to be re-circulated soon.

Richard Flacks, UCSB research professor of Sociology and interim chairman of the SUN Coalition, summarized its objectives: “We want to make sure that this project is based on principles of sustainability, provides broad social benefits and that the project’s impacts on the area’s housing supply, water resources, traffic and commuting help improve rather than threaten our quality of life.”

SUN emphasizes the following points:

» UCSB should demonstrate leadership in seeking sustainability in development, particularly in such areas as transportation, protection of natural resources, water, affordable housing, traffic, parking, energy conservation, climate change concerns and recycling.

» UCSB’s development must be one that maintains and enhances the quality of life of its surrounding communities.

» Concerns and impacts raised in the draft EIR should be addressed fully, openly and inclusively, providing specific mitigation, timetables and detailed planning as part of the final plan.

» The final LRDP should be the result of — and will benefit from — substantial community involvement and local public hearings and meetings on the proposed EIR.

In the opinion of many experts, the proposed LRDP will create serious, probably unmitigatable impacts on traffic and housing and water supplies. Despite adding significant housing on university property, for instance, there is no timetable to ensure the housing will be constructed before the students and faculty are added. No additional housing is planned for employees who will be required to provide services to the new population. And the university has no plans to provide housing for the hundreds of new faculty and staff who will be replacing retiring faculty and staff — and who are not likely to be leaving the area.

The initial draft EIR seems to indicate that the proposed project will consume the entire available water supply for the Goleta Valley. Whether this deficit can be remedied with additional state water is highly questionable.

Another major concern is traffic impacts on surrounding intersections already severely congested during peak hours. The EIR seems to take no account of traffic impacts from other projects already approved or in the pipeline. It largely ignores travel out of UCSB to the wider community — e.g. trips by student workers or faculty/staff family working off campus. There are no plans for expanded public transportation services. And finally, the LRDP does not seem to be coordinated with the new Master Plan for Isla Vista’s development.

As a recent UCSB grad, I know firsthand what a great asset UCSB is to our community. I also know that decisions made by and about the university will have far-reaching consequences for residents of the campus, Isla Vista, the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara and throughout Santa Barbara County. For coalition members as well as other concerned individuals and local organizations, the upcoming recirculation of the EIR provides a chance for all of us to be involved in this crucial planning.

Olivia Uribe is associate director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN). She can be reached at 805.879.1768 or at [email protected] This commentary originally appeared in the Santa Maria Times.

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