Thursday, December 1, 2011

Revitalizing Isla Vista

An article recently published in Pacific Coast Business Times introduces a new building project in Isla Vista by Mayer Architects.

I’m sure you have all biked past the construction site on the 6500 block of Trigo, across from IV Theater, however you may not know the building going up is the first private development project under the new revitalization effort.

Earlier this year, the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the second phase of its Commercial Building Partnerships (CBP) initiative, designed to establish collaborations to increase energy efficiency in new and existing commercial buildings.

The new development is called The LOOP and is being advertised as a green and sustainable project. The project will feature 45 residential units and green elements built into its design including recycled building materials, a car-sharing program, solar orientation and water efficiency measures, and a vegetable garden. The Loop’s developers hope it will be a catalyst for future private developments coming in to revitalize Isla Vista.

While the features listed above will make the building more environmentally friendly than most in Isla Vista, if students don’t actually utilize these aspects of the building it will not be nearly as “green” as the developers project.

“We’re taking Isla Vista out of being a student slum, to really being a vibrant community. It’s already got all the bones in there to be a really sustainable place…but one of the things that’s really been missing is a sense of ownership.”

“We’d really like it to become a world class-college town next to a world class university.”

Although I appreciate the developer’s efforts to make Isla Vista more environmentally friendly, with out the support and involvement of the Isla Vista community, the “revitalization effort” including this development will simply become part of the “slum.” Many students living in Isla Vista don’t mind or even enjoy trashing Isla Vista and a “sense of ownership,” is difficult to develop when everyone figures they will be living elsewhere after about four years.

I believe this represents a situation much like the ADMADE program in Zambia discussed in lecture where a disconnect between the local community and the management program personal kept the National Park system from being successful. The management company (Mayer Architects) is assuming student residents will take better care of this new building, however if the students aren’t motivated to take better care of their dwellings than the majority of Isla Vista residents, this project will also become a “slum.”

In order for a revitalization plan to work the management companies behind future projects like The LOOP must address the issue of getting the student community excited about taking better care of our surroundings before assuming the projects will “revitalize” Isla Vista.

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