The Goleta City Council is inching forward in its ambitious plans to fix the infrastructure in Old Town Goleta.
In its regular meeting on Tuesday, the council unanimously approved creating a new capital improvement program project, the Hollister Avenue Old Town interim striping project, and authorized a new appropriation of $70,000 for it.
Council members also directed staff to initiate design for the project based on a two-lane Hollister Avenue, adding bike lanes to both sides of Hollister from State Route 217 to Fairview Avenue.
This project only focuses on implementing the two-lane alternative by changing roadway striping, legends and signage, along with adjusting the bike lane in relation to on-street parking. Creating a new project will reduce the two major obstacles to implementing the complete street project — the long timeline and lack of funding.
Now, Goleta will temporarily implement the two-lane design to meet the primary goals of the complete streets project. In addition, because the project would be classified as a pilot project, it would allow for Old Town stakeholders to provide feedback on their needs in the area.
“I really like the idea of a demonstration project. The whole premise of it is terrific,” Council member Stuart Kasdin said. “We got some letters, one or two, wondering about what the impacts would be to the neighborhood as far as the reduced number of lanes. This allows us to understand it.”
He also addressed community members who have been referring to the project as a “road diet.”
“We’re not doing this simply to reduce the number of lanes, or in some way to punish drivers,” he said. “It’s a way of ensuring it’s safer for bicycles and ensuring it’s more livable for the people living in Old Town.
“It’s going to provide larger sidewalks eventually, which is good for the businesses; it’s going to enhance the area with safety and the medians,” Mr. Kasdin said. “It’s a good thing potentially for the whole neighborhood and it’s not something punitive because we’re hostile to cars.”
Council member Roger Aceves said he would like to see city staff touch base with those who live and work in the area moving forward.
“I would hate to see the project going forward and starting to be implemented and we have to step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, we didn’t talk to our business owners or operators,’” he said.
Mayor Pro Tempore James Kyriaco spoke to what he said is the goal of the project, which is to “go back to how Old Town was.”
“At one time, Old Town historically was our downtown. Goleta doesn’t have a downtown,” he said. “This would be an opportunity for us to again have a downtown for Goleta and I’m excited about that possibility.”
He added that he believes the demonstration project is better than “spending millions and millions of dollars on hardscape and making more permanent decisions.”
In other business, the council unanimously directed staff to pursue the adoption of a project labor agreement requirement for city projects.
City staff discussed the advantages of PLAs, including: “providing uniform wages, benefits, overtime pay, hours, working conditions and work rules for work on major construction projects; providing contractors with a reliable and uninterrupted supply of qualified workers at predictable costs; and ensuring that a project will be completed on time and on budget due to the supply of qualified labor and relative ease of project management,” among others.
They also discussed the disadvantages, including: “increasing costs by mandating union wages, work rules and inhibiting competition; PLAs are anti-competitive because nonunion contractors may choose not to bid; and PLAs are inherently unfair to nonunion contractors and nonunion employees,” among others.
While some public commenters opposed the idea of PLAs and others supported it, the council reached a consensus that more information is needed.
“I think what people are missing is that this is really more of a process step than a decision step,” Mr. Kyriaco said. “We have an opportunity to help contribute to a better trained and well-paid workforce by moving this process forward. We hear a lot about the need for investing in our infrastructure… But, too often, we neglect our human infrastructure — the people that make this city go.”
Council member Kyle Richards said he wants staff to return with thorough reporting on what other jurisdictions have used PLAs and what their experience has been.
“I think we can craft something that fits Goleta,” Mr. Kasdin said.
Now, the city will hire outside legal representation to provide advice and recommendations to the Ordinance Committee on the development of a PLA ordinance.