Planners, others stress importance of looking beyond the street closure and dining parklets
Think about Spain.
That’s what resident Michael Bruce suggested during a two-hour joint meeting of the Santa Barbara historic landmarks and planning commissions Friday as everyone looked at the big picture — a 30- to 50-years-from-now big picture — for lower State Street.
Planners, members of both commissions and residents, including those involved with businesses, discussed how that big picture goes beyond lower State Street’s current closure to cars and outdoor dining parklets. That was the discussion at this stage for the State Street Master Plan.
But for the moment, Mr. Bruce advised the commissions to consider a city in southern Spain that he visited.
“It was only in 2002 that they decided to make one of their streets pedestrian,” Mr. Bruce said. “One thing that really impressed me was there were no curbs on the street.”
And he said no one was bicycling down the street. “You got off your bike and walked your bike.”
During the two-hour meeting in a packed Faulkner Gallery at the Central Library, commissioners debated questions such as whether a 30- to 50-year plan is applicable to the ever-changing nature of the retail industry.
But at the start of the meeting, Tess Harris, the State Street master planner, said the plan is a visioning document covering what the next 30 to 50 years would look like for State Street. “To be successful in the long term, we need to think beyond closing the street and beyond outdoor dining. We want to think bigger. …
“How can we use it (State Street) in a way that makes downtown a place where people want to be, regardless of the activity they’re doing or the time of day it is,” Ms. Harris said. “We have created opportunities by closing the street for businesses to expand, and we want to think about how we can create a future space for businesses and the community and a space that the community wants to be a part of — not just building for what is there currently today, but what could be there in the future.”
Ms. Harris said the area covered by the plan extends from Sola Street to the Highway 101 underpass and between Chapala and Anacapa streets.
And Molly Pearson, a Santa Barbara resident who walks, rides a bike and drives a car, said planners need to consider not only State Street but possible alterations to surrounding streets so bicycles can travel safely in the downtown area. She said those could include more bicycle lanes.
Project planner Timmy Bolton said it’s essential that the plan be tailored to the unique characteristics of Santa Barbara and that it reflects the community’s vision and values. He said that could be accomplished through “extensive public engagement that reaches all corners of our community.”
Mr. Bolton said the plan would include an existing conditions analysis, a vision for how the space is used, and topics such as streetscape, public art, public amenities, housing, homeless engagement, stormwater management, utilities, overall mobility plan and economic development.
He said one question is how Santa Barbara can leverage its rich architectural heritage in a new and exciting way.
The city’s current timeline calls for a final plan by early 2024.