American Institute of Architects charrette heavily favors making changes permanent
The American Institute of Architects Santa Barbara chapter has concluded its 2020 Design Charrette seeking community input on a possible revamp of State Street, and the results show an overwhelming majority of responders want the promenade setup to stay permanent.
More than 90% of the respondents said they favored closing part of State Street to all vehicular traffic permanently in some form or fashion. A figure of 46.53% favored keeping State Street closed to vehicles in its current state, extending from Haley Street to Sola Street.
The second most popular answer was keeping State Street closed to vehicle traffic and expanding the number of closed blocks, with 38.94% favoring this arrangement. A significantly smaller amount, 7.89%, favored reducing the number of State Street blocks closed to vehicles.
Taken together, these add up to 93.36% of respondents in favor of closing certain sections of State Street. Only 4.48% favored returning all of State Street back to vehicular traffic, and 2.17% of respondents said they weren’t sure which they prefer.
Taken between July 15 and August 9, the charrette received 4,752 responses in English and 12 in Spanish, with 98 percent of the respondents living in the Santa Barbara South Coast area. Most of that majority, 76.7%, consisted of Santa Barbara residents, while 14.05% were from Goleta, Hope Ranch, or Isla Vista, and 7.23% from Montecito, Summerland, or Carpinteria. The smallest percentage, 2.3%, was visitors from outside the Santa Barbara South Coast Area.
When the News-Press went to the 500 block of State Street on Sunday afternoon to ask local residents what they thought of the results, everyone agreed with the charrette’s majority opinion. Santa Barbara resident Kelsey Bodine said changing State Street into a pedestrian promenade was “a long awaited improvement to Santa Barbara” that many local businesses wanted to happen for a while.
“I don’t want it to go back to the way it was,” Ms. Bodine said.
Local resident Sarah Jonas also said she likes the new State Street. Though she doesn’t think the promenade necessarily needs to be expanded, she’d support adding blocks if it would help businesses.
She added that making the promenade permanent would be an enjoyable addition to downtown Santa Barbara that doesn’t interfere with parking.
“I think it’s a good idea. There’s no parking on State Street so you’re not really losing parking, and we have nice weather here, so it’s fun to sit outside and eat,” she said.
Santa Barbara resident Shain Cox told the News-Press that State Street’s current setup “serves the community a whole lot better than to have traffic going up and down.” He also believes that expanding the number of areas closed to vehicles on not just State Street, but beyond, could be beneficial to local businesses.
“I think that this kind of concept could prove very valuable to other areas,” he stated. “If there’s road traffic and there’s businesses operating there, closing it down to serve this same purpose would prove very useful for whatever shops are on another road, if not State Street.”
For business owners who operate establishments on the 500 block of State Street, closing the street to vehicle traffic has been a great boon from a business standpoint. Red Piano co-owner Colin Campbell said the current setup has been “a great help” and for the most part seems “about right,” but he does think that there should be more police to enforce improper bicycling and mask wearing through the crowded 500 block.
“I think they need to make some rules if they want to control the safety element of the whole thing. They need to make a couple laws that would really help people that are in charge of enforcing it, just give them some teeth and ability when in their job,” he said.
The Cruisery owner Aron Ashland said the promenade is something the city should have done a long time ago, and was optimistic that the added liveliness to State Street will generate money for the city of Santa Barbara.
“It’s the most valuable real estate in the city, and now we’re using it to make the city better, to generate more tax revenue, to be able to have more police, more fire department, better schools, all those things,” Mr. Ashland said.
He added, “The city used to pay money to maintain the street. Now they’re going to make money closing the street off, so I think it’s a win for the city, overall.”
Though overall pleased with the promenade, like Mr. Campbell, Mr. Ashland also thinks it could use a greater police presence to enforce mask wearing. Enforcing mask rules currently falls on the business owners, and Mr. Ashland said it’s not something he’s very used to.
“It’s just nice to have someone there for support so we don’t have to be the bad guy all the time,” he said.