The proposed revitalization of downtown’s De la Guerra Plaza involves several changes and additions, some of which have proven controversial, including the proposed bubbler fountain and the hard surface materials that will replace the existing grass.
In an interview with the News-Press, Principal Project Manager Brad Hess shared more about some of the project’s features.
— The bubbler fountain:
“This was previously supported by HLC and the Advisory Committee, and contrary to what we heard at the most recent meeting, we think this is a great idea for the plaza,” he said.
He admitted there have been concerns voiced in the past over the appropriateness of having a fountain because of the water shortage.
“While that may not be a problem now with the storms this year, we live in a place where it will be a problem again. The fountain uses recirculated water that runs through a filter system and storage tank such that the water loss is only due to evaporation. It’s not much. This system also meets the Department of Health requirements for safety.
“When it’s off, it will be challenging to see that there is a fountain present, and the space will just be a beautiful part of the plaza. The Chumash mosaic will be in that space as well, possibly a part of the bubbler fountain, but the space will be beautiful when the water is on or off.
“Lastly, traditional above-ground fountains with pools of water are not supported by the city council, and they made it very clear they would not approve an exception for an above-ground fountain for the plaza.”
— The surface materials:
“The materials proposed were supported by HLC, and we are confident that they are in keeping with the historic feel of the plaza,” he said.
There are four types of materials proposed.
The “Street of Spain” that comes from El Paseo adjacent to Casa de la Guerra is grouted sandstone.
“We are proposing to extend this very historic material and look all the way around the outside of the plaza toward the News-Press building and then down Storke Placita to State Street. It will be stunning. If you go look at it, it appears to be random in the way it’s installed, but there’s actually an old pattern that is used. We intend to use the model as the template for the installation.”
Inside the grouted sandstone is a brick band that mimics the road. It will not be the red brick of State Street, but “Pueblo Flash,” which is more brown and neutral.
“The reason for the brick is that this is where the utilities are located underground,” Mr. Hess said. “The reason the plaza looks like it does is that over the years repairs have been made and then patched with concrete, asphalt or a combination, and it looks terrible.
“One motivation I had from the beginning is how to keep the integrity of the aesthetics for the life of the plaza. The brick allows the utilities to be repaired and then the bricks put back in place without negatively affecting the beauty because they will not be set in concrete like the stone.
“Inside of the brick, in the center area of the Plaza, we are proposing to use flagstone. There are many types of flagstone … and the Surface Materials Subcommittee felt that the Oklahoma flagstone was best. It is proposed to be 2.5-3-inch thick squares set at a 45-degree angle. Because we will be customizing the space, we have the ability to control the color range of the flagstone through the stone contractor.”
Decomposed granite is proposed in front of Casa De La Guerra.
“In summary, all the materials proposed are complementary to each other, are of neutral earth tones, and will provide subtle differences in texture; because of the scale of the plaza, the pattern will not look ‘busy,’” Mr. Hess said.
— The pavilion building:
“The use will be practical, utilitarian and flexible as we don’t know the use of the plaza in 20–50 years, but would like this building to be able to accommodate the utility panels and controls, some storage for the plaza, and a flexible space that could be used by City Hall, events, etc.,” Mr. Hess said.
“Right now the building is approximately 16 feet by 84 feet, and the design is still in progress. The constructive comments we received from HLC will be taken into consideration.”
— Anacapa Street landscaping:
“The landscaping in front of City Hall wasn’t originally in the scope of work but was added later with the goal of re-introducing the front of City Hall to the community, making it beautiful with a model landscape for Santa Barbara, connecting it to the plaza through design, and creating a connection with both De la Guerra Street and Anacapa Street with a more civic announcement through design that this is City Hall.
“We will relocate the flags from the plaza to this area and relocate the historic Washingtonian Palm Tree from the plaza to an area in which it will continue to thrive.”
Planners will be revising the pavilion design with the Ad Hoc Committee within the next month and refining the front landscape design pursuant to HLC’s preference, he said.
“Other items will be further refined as well as the design progresses,” he said. “We hope to be back in front of HLC in the 6-8 week range.”
— Compatibility with the Street Master Plan.
“I am in regular contact with Tess Harris, who is the planner for the State Street Master Plan,” Mr. Hess said. “We are confident that what we are proposing for the Plaza will complement what is done on State Street, and vice versa.”