Coalition plots alternatives to reconstruction
The Coalition to Preserve Mission Canyon met in front of Santa Barbara City Hall Monday to present its plan for a safe walking path — a plan that does not include reconstruction of the Mission Canyon Bridge.
The group plans to speak up at today’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, in which Public Works will seek council’s direction on a potential $10.8 million bridge replacement.
The city could receive $5.8 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Program because the bridge has been ruled obsolete.
Rich Untermann, a Santa Barbara resident and professor emeritus of urban planning at the University of Washington, said the city could spend less by just addressing the path and crosswalks and maintaining the bridge.
“The bridge is considered to be functionally obsolescent, but that’s to say that it’s narrower than a modern bridge and the angles are a little sharper,” Dr. Lanny Ebenstein told the News-Press. “But it’s exactly that functional obsolescence that is a natural traffic calmer, keeps traffic slower than it would otherwise be.
“So a bigger, wider bridge wouldn’t just have a modern look. It would speed traffic up and be less safe.”
Pedestrian safety was the original focus of 2012 plans to renovate the Mission Canyon Corridor.
At the time, the city only planned to add a separate pedestrian bridge but later learned of engineers’ reservations about the bridge.
A study by the Wallace Group out of San Luis Obispo says the bridge is structurally vulnerable if faced with an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude.
“During the earthquake in 1925, it survived 6.8 magnitude without even cracking. And downtown was demolished. And the (nearby) Mission itself had major damage,” coalition member Paulina Konn said.
Evan Jones feels confident that the bridge’s builder, his great-great-grand uncle Roland Hazard, designed a sturdy structure.
“Do you think for one moment that future philanthropists are going to help this community in any way if they thought that their gifts will be torn asunder a few generations later on?” he said in a speech to the small crowd who gathered Monday afternoon.
Sentiment was strong among some members. Mimi Hildbrand, a member of the Van Schaick family, was raised in the Mission Canyon neighborhood.
She’s afraid the area she loves may soon not be reminiscent of her childhood’s Santa Barbara.
As a young girl, Alice Post walked across the bridge with her mother. When Ms. Post raised her son, she guided him to school along the same path she once walked.
The warm memories are also met with fear as she recalls three evacuations since the Coyote Fire in 1964. The bridge is part of her path to safety, so the prospect of a long construction period stirs anxiety.
Other concerns focused on nearby wildlife and Rocky Nook Park, which could suffer if the bridge is significantly widened.
“I think that people don’t realize what an impact changing the bridge would have on the entire area,” Fran Galt said.
The fish below the bridge include endangered steelhead trout, she stressed.
Rosanne Crawford has accumulated more than 1,000 signatures in a petition to save the bridge.
The city of Santa Barbara can choose not to renovate the bridge and receive grant funding for the studies it has used to assess the project.
The City Council meeting is set for 2 p.m. To stream online, go to santabarbaraca.gov/gov/cityhall/council/meetings/videos/default.asp.