Leaders highlight collaboration amid COVID-19
The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual State of the City address Friday morning for Santa Barbara.
City leaders reflected on the collaboration between city leadership, businesses and nonprofits when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the innovative actions taken to save small businesses.
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo, City Administrator Paul Casey and City Economic Development Manager Jason Harris provided a summary of the city’s economy since the start of the pandemic.
They also discussed planned projects and the next steps as the city approaches additional reopenings.
“To say that this has been a challenging year does not give significant recognition to the global impact COVID-19 has caused,” Mayor Murillo said. “But Santa Barbara is resilient.”
She mentioned the city’s partnership with United Way that provided small business grants, the business advisory task force, closing lower State Street, emergency food distribution and other emergency actions the city took in March.
“This is a city of determined and hardworking people and we have recovered from past disasters,” the mayor said. “We will recover from this one better, stronger and united.”
In addition, she reflected on the civil unrest that occurred over the summer regarding the death of George Floyd, as well as examples of how Santa Barbara has addressed both racial and social inequality. She noted efforts included work toward creating a civilian review board for the Santa Barbara Police Department and the decision to rename Indio Muerto Street, among others.
Mayor Murillo covered new initiatives to address homelessness, such as a partnership between Santa Barbara Connect Home and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, the police department, Santa Barbara Housing Authority and PATH (a homeless shelter) to identify needs of the population.
She added that the three months of rental assistance provided by the Community Development Block Grants prevented vulnerable residents from falling into homelessness.
The mayor spoke to the average unit density incentive program for new rental housing, which provided 436 new units in the last seven years, with another 302 approved in the future, and the updated accessory dwelling unit standards, which has resulted in 350 ADUs so far.
Finally, Mayor Murillo mentioned plans for 2021 and 2022 involving the Cabrillo Pavilion, the just recently approved Bikeshare program, upgrades to the State Street underpass, park and facility renovation projects,and the future Library Plaza.
“Santa Barbara remains resilient and strong,” she concluded. “Together we will persevere through the challenges ahead.”
City Administrator Paul Casey echoed the perseverance of the city amid the layoffs and hiring chill of the pandemic.
He outlined the Economic Recovery Ordinance that supported the reopening of many businesses by relaxing certain restrictions and allowing small businesses to operate outdoors.
Mr. Casey also announced his current recruiting for a new community development director, assistant city administrator and fire chief.
Finally, Economic Development Manager Jason Harris, who started his new position the day the city shut down economic activity during the pandemic, spoke to the city’s innovative economic development plan.
“The pandemic has tested our wills in more ways than one, but I’ve been awed by the sheer determination of Santa Barbara,” he said.
Mr. Harris highlighted the Santa Barbara Better Together Fund, which provided $150,000 to small businesses in the community, along with the collaboration of the South Coast Chamber, the Downtown Santa Barbara Organization, Visit Santa Barbara and others for assisting businesses.
This State of the City was the second of a four-part series.
Carpinteria was featured in September, and the State of Goleta will occur Nov. 20, followed by the first-ever State of the County on Dec. 11.