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California Coastal Commission Approves UCSB’s Long-Range Development Plan

After thoroughly vetting one of the larger developments the Central Coast has seen in some time, the California Coastal Commission this week finally approved UC Santa Barbara’s Long-Range Development Plan.

Good thing, too, since UCSB plans outline students moving into one of the yet-to-be constructed residence halls by fall 2016.

University officials, who had been waiting for the final OK since the UC Board of Regents approved the LRDP and environmental impact report in September 2010, breathed sighs of relief.

Now they must get to work.

The long-range plan was created to accommodate academic program changes and the influx of students UCSB is projected to see through 2025. Based on a 1-percent annual enrollment increase, that’s 250 new students a year and 5,000 total, and the university wants space to house them all.

The plan also shows UCSB providing housing for more than 1,600 faculty and staff members, compared to the current 65 units.

Along with construction comes concerns about traffic density and preservation, since almost the entire campus is located within the Coastal Zone boundary and subject to the provisions of the Coastal Act.

Drought placed a heightened importance on conservation, which took center stage during Thursday’s commission meeting in Half Moon Bay.

Written into the plan were requirements to develop more enhanced reclaimed water systems on campus and to use reclaimed water for industrial applications, such as cooling towers, to reduce potable consumption.

Planners on both sides have been back and forth since the plan’s submittal in May 2011, but Coastal Commission vice chair Jana Zimmer discussed parking, transportation, habitat protection, building height and water supply concerns because she said the commission wouldn’t be approving all the individual projects as they were built.

“I know it took a long time, but I think in the long run we’re all going to be better for it,” Zimmer said. “This is a very significant development plan for Santa Barbara County. I can’t think of another project that has ever or could ever approach the scope.”

The proposed development increases on-campus student housing to 50 percent from about 33 percent.

Since much of the current housing is designed for undergraduates, the redeveloped Storke, Santa Ynez and West Campus Apartments neighborhoods would serve a mix of faculty, staff, graduate students and students with families.

An additional 45 units of faculty housing are proposed for the West Campus Mesa, and 125 units are proposed for the Devereux site. Along Ocean Road, a denser, more urban neighborhood would be created for a mix of faculty, staff and graduate students.

Plans call for building a two- to six-story, 186-unit, 1,003-bed undergraduate student housing complex, not to exceed 65 feet tall. Also on the list are a dining common, ground-floor convenience store of a residential building, three surface parking lots with 216 total parking spaces and grading on the San Joaquin Housing site, adjacent to the existing Santa Catalina Residence Halls on Storke Campus.

Bikeways, footpaths, transit lines and small-scale streets will link neighborhoods to the main campus and Isla Vista.

The Sierra Madre student apartment complex, currently under construction on Storke Road, will be ready for occupancy in fall 2015. A year later, the San Joaquin Villages project adjacent to the existing Santa Catalina complex will open, and a third named Mesa Verde is also in the works.

Zimmer wondered how the Goleta Water District could say it had enough water to supply the development and exactly what constituted significant water shortage to prompt mitigation measures.

Jack Ainsworth, the commission’s senior deputy director, said UCSB would have to offset all its new water usage with recycled or other methods if a shortage did occur.

“This is a huge achievement,” Ainsworth said after the board granted unanimous approval.

UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang agreed, and thanked the commission in a statement.

“On behalf of UC Santa Barbara, I want to express my tremendous appreciation for the approval and thoughtful review by the California Coastal Commission, including Executive Director Charles Lester and his dedicated staff, whose support and wise counsel to UCSB played an integral role in this process,” Yang said. “We are extremely grateful to all who collaborated with us on UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan. The collective insight and true partnership provided by so many throughout this process have made our plan even stronger, and ensured that it is in harmony with our neighbors, the California coast and the environment.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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