Randy Rowse says homeless situation is getting better despite problems that led to restaurant’s upcoming closure
Mayor Randy Rowse calls the impending closure of The Natural Cafe “sad,” given the restaurant’s 30 years as a downtown Santa Barbara fixture. “They’ve been a longtime institution.”
But the Santa Barbara mayor said the homeless problem along lower State Street appears to be improving despite the eatery’s ongoing troubles with aggressive vagrants.
The Natural Cafe owner Kelly Brown recently announced that, after three decades of running his restaurant at 508 State St., he is closing its doors partly in response to increasingly aggressive panhandling by homeless people and problems with them interacting with his staff.
He also maintained that homeless people near his restaurant are consuming alcohol and drugs in public, using planters for toilets, camping in empty storefronts “or locking themselves in our bathrooms and showering, sleeping and using drugs,” which he said “is an everyday occurrence,”
Mayor Rowse conceded there might be “a lack of improvement on that part of State Street,” but that other areas downtown appear to have a lot fewer homeless people than previously.
The mayor, who’s a former restaurant owner, said he recently walked lower State Street at about 9:30 p.m. and saw maybe one or two homeless people.
“There wasn’t anyone lying down with their legs stretched out,” he said.
On the other hand, the mayor said he was not surprised at Mr. Brown’s anger at an increasing problem with rats, which nest underneath the parklets located in the downtown promenade, with “food just falling on them from above.”
Mayor Rowse said that’s not surprising, and he decried the continued lack of portability of some parklets, which would allow for deep cleaning underneath them of food and other debris that might attract vermin.
He also blamed the lack of required portability on the city’s inability to allow parades back down State Street, at least until the commencement of the State Street Master Plan, not expected to start until 2024.
In contrast, he praised the city of Carpinteria for requiring its parklets to be portable and for enforcing parklet “requirements” versus the “guidelines” in place for Santa Barbara parklets.
Personally I feel State Street should return to the way it was before Covid up ended everything. By the way a promenade is for walking not bikes, scooters and skate boards speeding down State street as I’ve seen them do. Parades should come back to State street.
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