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Goleta Council Hears What UCSB Sees

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As campus looks ahead to ambitious development plans, neighboring community ponders impacts.

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UCSB is planning to undergo some major expansion in the next couple of decades as it comes close to completing its Long-Range Development Plan, the draft of which was released about a week ago.

?As you know UCSB has really entered the top tier of research universities not only in America but in the world, and we want to build on the excellence we have achieved to date,? UCSB Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas said in a presentation to the Goleta City Council on Tuesday.

Lucas, along with Marc Fisher, associate vice chancellor of campus design and facilities, have been presenting the planning document to different segments of the community and gathering input, a period that will come to a close on May 9. Fisher was not at the council meeting Tuesday.

The LRDP, called ?Vision2025,? undertakes some of the most ambitious development the UCSB, Isla Vista and Goleta communities have seen in many years, as it takes on an assumed 1 percent per year growth in student population. The growth tops off in 2025 with about 25,000 students ? about 5,000 more than there are today ? plus the additional faculty and staff required to support the increased student population.

?We’ve looked historically over the last 15-20 years, and that (growth rate) is about where we’ve been,? said Lucas, adding that the growth rate is in line with that of the surrounding communities.

To accommodate these new people on the 1,055 acres that UCSB currently owns, the university will have to do a major reconfiguration of its campus, including reorganizing its buildings, which were built around the original military barracks layout that originally occupied the site before the university moved in. According to Lucas, the new layout will be a much improved version over the current one, with easier navigation, a more connected architectural style, green standards, improved views and more amenities that will be available to the public.

Housing will be another major undertaking. The housing shortage is both a cause for the development and an effect of the growth proposed by the development.

?Our biggest problem today in terms of recruitment and retention is housing,? Lucas said of UCSB, one of the largest employers in Santa Barbara County.

?Part of our long-range development plan is a very aggressive housing plan to try to house all of that additional population,  to mitigate the impact on the surrounding community.?

The housing, he said, will be located on sites that already are developed.

UCSB looks to provide on-campus living quarters for at least 50 percent of its students by 2025 ? about 13,000. The school currently provides some 7,000 housing units on campus, while about 8,000 students live in Isla Vista. The remaining approximately 5,000 students live in nearby communities.

The LRDP’s plan for housing includes modifying the existing student housing to accommodate higher densities as well as building about 1,800 new units for students, faculty, staff and student families.

Many of these new housing units will be located on the proposed Greensward, a swath of green open space connecting the Devereux and Goleta sloughs. Instead of the isolated pockets of neighborhoods currently in that area, UCSB intends to build a mix of housing and neighborhoods connected via extended bike and pedestrian pathways, while at the same time avoiding the more environmentally sensitive areas. In addition, UCSB looks to coordinate with the Isla Vista Master Plan to provide greater connectivity between the university and the student enclave.

It is the combination of on-campus housing and enhanced alternative transportation that Lucas said will help mitigate the impacts of traffic in the area, which according to the LRDP’s Environmental Impact Report Summary, will be unavoidably affected, from the freeway to local streets to parking in Isla Vista.

?We are anticipating that the new population will be living in and around the campus and will not be using automobiles to access the campus,? Lucas said.

Other parts of UCSB’s plan are to encourage alternative transit, build better internal roads, add parking structures, participate in traffic mitigation efforts in the area by the county and Goleta, and establish a parking program in Isla Vista.

Another major concern about UCSB’s development is water, with locals worrying that the development may overburden the available supply. According to Lucas, at this point there isn’t enough water available to UCSB for the completion of the project.

?We have enough water rights at this point in time to get us a long way down the road to the year 2025 but we don’t have all the rights required to accomplish the growth we are talking about,? he said.

Potential deals with other water districts may procure enough water rights to supply the completed project, however, and leave enough available for other needs in the area, he said.

According to the EIR summary, other local utilities and services also would feel the impacts, including trash and fire services, and even elementary schools. UCSB’s mitigation measures include establishment of new facilities, as needed, or the enhancement of existing ones, or payments toward shared costs of construction.

The process is not over yet, said Lucas, who will be looking for further public input on the LRDP and its Environmental Impact Report at 7 p.m. April 29 at Embarcadero Hall in Isla Vista. From that point, the LRDP and public input will be taken to the UC Regents, and then will be subject to state Coastal Commission approval. If all goes smoothly, construction could begin by 2009.

Click here for copies of the long-range development plan. Printed copies also have been distributed to local libraries.

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