Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
How many cities in the world can boast a Main Street that leads directly to the sea?
And they want to block off that rare distinction and turn it into a 10-block-long food court? Seriously? Whose head will roll when State Street fails?
Especially after the Santa Barbara City Council’s appointments of members of the boards and commissions.
These are the same boards who, in the past, maintained the look and style of Santa Barbara by insisting on specific standards of quality architecture and compatibility of neighborhoods. Instead, now we see board members who openly champion oversized buildings that blot out the sun and the view and squash a quality of life with no place to park. Are we all to be relegated to foot soldiers with limited mobility and access to only the crumbs left over by those penthouse elite or the mountaintop dwellers?
Anything goes for more housing, yet with the threatening policies, we will never be able to accommodate all who want to live here. Which is true of any place from Martha’s Vineyard to Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Make no mistake. Jason Harris, Santa Barbara’s first economic development manager, hired from the city of Santa Monica, plans to market Santa Barbara worldwide as the “Silicon Riviera.” As if! How dare he? Who is he trying to attract by this moniker? Is this a key element in completely changing the face of Santa Barbara?
Look what happened to the San Francisco Bay Area. After the Silicon Valley moniker was attached, people making six figures were living in vans. It could happen here.
As it is, the State Street Promenade has devolved into a location unrecognizable to its former position as a refined, beautiful city. The prominent architecture is hidden by these piecemeal, cobbled-together parklets, as State Street restaurant owners land grabs for more restaurant seats.
What we see is an attempt to turn State Street into 10 long blocks of restaurants, yet this business model will not be sustainable, nor fulfill the needs of the residents.
The closing of State Street — this incessant war cry of the neophytes in city council, none of whom have ever owned a business (except for Mayor Randy Rowse, a former restaurant owner) — has cut off the connection/flow to the beach, and the result is gangrene of our downtown shopping area.
The Funk Zone is flourishing while the main artery of State Street flounders. Could that be because it is freely accessible, with hardly any planning, zoning restrictions, no sidewalks and few regulations? That is why restaurants and wine tastings are actively thriving.
Paris has its Left Bank for bars, restaurants and “scene.” London has Piccadilly. Imagine them taking the queen’s cortege on side streets to avoid the parklets instead of its stately Boulevard. And that is exactly what we’re doing. Relegating our traditional grand parades to side streets, like a sideshow.
Yet our city council members continue to thwart accessibility by closing State Street to all but bikes and pedestrians. When was the last time you walked down State Street with e-bikes whizzing by? How much commerce can be conducted from a bicycle?
No main street was ever designed as a party street, but that is exactly what these city planners have in mind.
It is about balance. The acting police chief said that wider streets are safer, so why has the city allowed the Transportation Department, as bike advocates, to narrow our streets — and main thoroughfares of De La Vina, Chapala, Anacapa?
No surprise that during the city council’s Tuesday meeting, we find that the Ad Hoc committee recommended keeping State Street closed and the panel made it clear that our traditional parades are not a part of their plan. Just who’s on this committee, you may ask? Doesn’t allowing the members of the Ad Hoc subcommittee to vote on their own recommendations, stack the deck against any opposition? The citizens of Santa Barbara?
Council members Kristen Sneddon, Oscar Gutierrez and Michael Jordan are on the Ad Hoc Committee — three votes obviously for the proposals they concocted.
Thankfully, City Manager Rebecca Bjork objected to Ms. Sneddon’s deadline of Feb. 1 for cleaning of debris. Ms. Bjork warned that State Street has a drainage system and that the city has not seen a good rain in two years. “Lompoc had 2 inches of rain Monday, and it takes 6 inches to float a car.”
The date for clearing the drainage was changed to Dec. 1.
It’s a shame no one listened to Mayor Rowse, the only voice of reason we have on the City Council. Should inexperienced, politically motivated and relative newcomers to Santa Barbara carry the weight in shaping and maintaining its classically high community standards and traditions?
Speaking of balance, look at Opal restaurant with its 10 foot-high roof for their parklet which obliterates the Arlington Theatre marquee. How is this allowed?
By the way, how can one experience fine dining from a parklet — akin to sitting on a picnic bench?
Yet the Ad Hoc recommendations agreed that existing roofs of 10 feet are allowed, but new parklets are allowed 10-foot poles for lighting only. Clearly, these plans continue catering shortsightedly to the restaurants who’ve already invested thousands of dollars in their mishmash of parklets. On parklets, say a restaurant with an inside capacity of 50 patrons requires a certain number of restroom toilets approved by the city for that number of patrons. Now, the city staff, five of the seven City Council members (including the Ad Hoc Committee) have allowed and continue to allow more seating outside adding to the restroom usage and restaurant capacity. No mention of infrastructure. Should porta-potties be added for overflow (and to add to the new ambiance)?
Again, who are the players who work at the city, who are hired as consultants by the city but are still tied to the AIA Charette, working the city over, for their own design? Please note: Caps are put on universities to accommodate their student housing. Westmont College puts a cap for students to keep Montecito – Montecito. Just like Lotusland maintains a limit on cars and visitors to accommodate the neighbors.
UCSB’s decision to ignore the cap is why Santa Barbara County and Goleta are suing the university. Students take up residents’ housing.
The Santa Barbara economic development manager, Jason Harris, is promoting the idea that Santa Barbara City College, Westmont and Cal State Channel Islands (from Camarillo, why?) establish satellite campuses in downtown Santa Barbara. Once again, in the business model of Hutton Parker Foundation, the leases will be to nonprofits. The property then falls off the tax rolls.
It’s a no-win for Santa Barbara.