Long lampooned for being nothing more than an appendage to the University of California, Santa Barbara, the community of Isla Vista is finally getting a major architectural makeover.
For years, Isla Vista has been the butt of jokes about sofa burnings and the scene of not-so-funny Halloween mayhem.
But powerful forces are reshaping the community of more than 18,000 located just west of the UCSB campus. In a best-case scenario, Isla Vista 2.0 might just become a role model for other urban environments and especially the struggling Old Town in nearby Goleta.
What’s driving the Isla Vista makeover is a master plan that’s been developed in recent years. The plan includes more mixed-use residential-retail construction, a modernist break from Santa Barbara-style architecture and a focus on affordable housing.
Those three elements have the potential to create a new Isla Vista that’s more liveble, more attractive to professors and staff who work on campus and much more diverse than the current heavily student population.
But there are other factors creating demand for a new and improved Isla Vista.
Thanks to a spurt of new residence hall construction at the entrance to the campus, demand for retail products and related services is growing. The community’s embrace of all things green means residents are eager to park their cars and look for shops and food stores that are within walking or easy biking distance.
The recession and budget crunch mean that people are looking for ways to get more done with fewer resources. But the recession hasn’t really driven housing prices in adjacent communities down to levels that would be considered “affordable” by any stretch of the imagination. That means housing in the $300,000 range will continue to be very much in demand by middle class families and working professionals in and around the campus.
Improvements on campus are likely to have positive economic spinoff effects for Goleta and for shops and office parks along Hollister Avenue. If Isla Vista’s makeover succeeds, it may provide a template for improvements in Old Town Goleta, which continues to suffer from substandard housing and woefully underdeveloped retail, tourism and conference facilities.[Correction: This editorial originally referred to Isla Vista as north of the UCSB campus.]