Once again Santa Barbara’s current elected officials are proposing to give away public property as a favor. For many years, the city has charged rent to bars and restaurants that want to take over part of a public sidewalk for their own use. The rent is so low compared to what the landlords charge that it is already the deal of the century. Now the city proposes to eliminate the rent, and let bars and restaurants claim public sidewalk space for free.
The public property in Santa Barbara is held in trust for all of us. It should not be given away or rented for less than it is worth.
Furthermore, these outdoor bars areas on public sidewalks are a gaping loophole in the city’s alleged crackdown on public smoking. Obviously, if the city decides at the budget meeting on Wednesday to allow these sidewalk takeovers for free, there will be a lot more of them. This is contrary to the grant money the city has received as a reward for its supposed crackdown on outdoor smoking.
It’s just a fundamental principle of good government that public real estate should not be rented or given away without fair compensation. The city has already removed the majority of public benches on State Street, and now they want to create a situation where you have to pay to sit down. It is the continuation of a trend where the city proposes to charge residents to use public parking and public sidewalks, but at the same time proposes to give them to business for free.
Let your City Council member know that you expect better stewardship from them than this proposal: SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.gov.