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In Wake of RDA Disarray, California Says Santa Barbara County Can Keep Three Isla Vista Projects

In a major victory for Isla Vista, three properties in the heart of the community will remain under local control and not that of the state.

The California Department of Finance approved a plan last week that would allow Santa Barbara County to hold on to three properties purchased by the county’s former redevelopment agency in Isla Vista, including the building that is home to the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic at 970 Embarcadero del Mar.

The plan also includes keeping the parking lot at 881 Embarcadero del Mar and the building that formerly housed St. Athanasius Orthodox Church located at 976 Embarcadero del Mar.

The properties are in the county’s Third Supervisorial District, overseen by Supervisor Doreen Farr, who said she was pleased with the state’s decision.

“These assets will continue to provide well-needed public services in the Isla Vista community,” she said.

After some 400 redevelopment agencies throughout California were ordered dissolved in 2011, assets purchased by those agencies were to be turned back over to the state.

The Board of Supervisors began creating a property management plan last May, requesting the stat’s permission to retain the three properties so they could be used for various community interests, including the provision of public parking.

The oversight board of the RDA’s successor agency took unanimous action to approve the supervisors’ plan last October. To keep the properties, the plan had to prove that they were still being utilized for government use.

The parking lot is used by the public, qualifying as a government use, as well as for the residents of the Plaza Lofts, which was written into the property management plan, said Errin Briggs, program manager for the county’s successor agency.

As for the medical clinic and the former church, Briggs said there’s been significant interest from Isla Vista residents in both locations.

Keeping the medical clinic was a priority, and people have said a community center might be a good use for the former church building.

Nothing is in the works just yet, but Briggs said the item will come before county supervisors at some point.

“It’s up to the county to decide what to do with it,” he said.

For, now “people are excited, and the people who lobbied the county to retain those properties are very excited,” he said.

While the plan was under review by state officials, Briggs said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, also expressed their support.

Isla Vista community members supported the plan through a letter-writing campaign to the state Finance Department.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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