Santa Barbara City Council designates green median as a city landmark
The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to designate the historic State Street Parkway between Mission Street and Constance Avenue as a city landmark.
As part of its resolution conveying city landmark status on the parkway, the council followed staff’s recommendation that the landscape groundcover must consist of low plant materials, as opposed to mulch or gravel, and that any Pindo Palms that have to be removed be replaced by other Pindo Palms.
Further, council members agreed with staff that the landmark designation should only apply to the parkway itself, which runs down the center of the street, and should not run curb to curb to include the paved street on both sides of the parkway.
The Historic Landmark Commission, which had recommended the council name the parkway a city landmark, had also voted unanimously that the designation should apply to the entire street, roads and parkway included.
But staff pointed out Monday that would mean having to return to the HLC repeatedly for permission to perform street repairs and maintenance. Restricting the landmark status to just the parkway would allow crews to do the work as needed without permission, staff said.
“It would make it easier,” Associate Planner Nicole Hernandez said. “Either way, the parkway is going to be protected. I think we can reach that goal with that designation” while still restricting the status to the parkway alone.
The council sided with staff.
Although she hesitated to go against a unanimous HLC vote, Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said she would support staff’s position.
“Our priority is preserving the parkway in its current state,” she said. “But we need to maintain the roads for current uses.”
She and other council members then enthusiastically endorsed conferring city landmark status on the State Street Parkway.
‘I’m fully in support of this,” Councilmember Mike Jordan said.
“I’m supporting staff’s recommendation 100 percent,” Councilmember Eric Friedman added. “Our intent is to protect the parkway. We don’t have to do the roads.”
He described the parkway section of State Street as “an oasis” situated in between two developed commercial areas of State, echoing a comment made earlier by a public speaker.
“It’s important we do this,” he said.
Mayor Randy Rowse complimented those members of the public who spoke Monday to urge the council to support making the State Street Parkway a city landmark. He thanked them for “carrying the torch” when it comes to historic preservation.
One speaker, Rick Baron, who said he’s lived in the same house on State Street for 70 years, called the State Street Parkway a reminder of the past.
“People in Santa Barbara have always cared about life here, and we should, too,” he said.
“We want to see this survive and last as something notable,” added speaker Eric Couch.
Pat Saley, an Upper East Side Association board member, said the parkway is the only one of its kind in town.
“It’s over 100 years old, and pretty much in pristine condition since it was first constructed,” she said.
Added speaker Fred Sweeney, “We’re trying to preserve a piece of significant history. It’s part of the city and who we are as citizens. I hope 100 years from now our great-great-grandchildren will look back and think it was the right thing to do.”
Before the public speakers and council members weighed in, Ms. Hernandez presented the council with the parkway’s history, and the reasons why it should be designated a city landmark.
She noted it was an important historic resource designed in 1917 to create a tree-filled green space along the six blocks of the newly residential portion of State Street from Mission Street to Constance Avenue.
The State Street Parkway embodies the distinctive characteristics of the City Beautiful Movement, she said, a movement that was sweeping the nation at that time.
The intention was to soften and beautify State Street, she said. “The public demanded it.”