The Santa Barbara City Council decided to close West Victoria Street from State Street to Chapala Street to allow the Public Market and other restaurants on that block to expand their services outdoors.
On Tuesday, restaurant owners praised that decision during the City Council meeting.
The decision was made at the beginning of the week, and the city is hoping to have the street closed by the end of the week until the foreseeable future, according to city officials.
This closure follows that of State Street’s notable closure at the end of May, which allowed for restaurants to move tables and chairs outdoors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allow for social distancing.
Marge Cafarelli, the owner of the Public Market, said she wanted to extend a “heartfelt thank you” to the city administration for getting it closed.
“I think it will be a win-win for all of the restaurants on West Victoria,” she said. “As you know, we’re in a very difficult time, and being able to add additional seating into the street will really be a lifeline.”
The owner of Scarlett Begonia, Krista Fooks, also called in to voice her support of the street closure.
“Closing the street and letting us safely expand without traffic would be instrumental for my business and everybody on my block,” she said. “We want to provide a place where people feel safe with their families.”
Mitchell Sjerven, owner of another restaurant, Bouchon, suggested the closure become permanent.
“I think the vast majority of Santa Barbarans I’ve spoken with are very in favor of this,” he said.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, the City Attorney’s office also gave a presentation on the civilian police review systems, where John Doimas, the assistant city attorney, outlined the background of these systems, their general functions, benefits and goals, existing practices and recommendations.
He introduced four common oversight models of these review systems: investigation-focused, review-focused, auditor/monitor-focused and a hybrid model.
The attorney’s office recommended to “direct the city attorney and other city staff designated by council to conduct informational public workshops in conjunction with representative community groups to gather community feedback on civilian police review needs and concerns; and provide direction for other future actions as council may deem appropriate.”
The City Council hopes the review board will increase police accountability and transparency, build trust, eliminate bias, deter misconduct, protect civil rights, demystify internal affairs and provide an avenue for community involvement.
Simone Ruskamp, one of the leaders of Healing Justice Santa Barbara, expressed her concern with the creation process of a civilian review board.
“The process is murky at best and at worst presents barriers,” she said. “It’s imperative that you listen to what the community is asking for which is a review board, not a single auditor and not unattached experts.”
Many other callers called in support of the demands of Healing Justice SB, calling for the inclusion of the most impacted individuals such as LGBTQ+ individuals, undocumented people, those with disabilities, formerly incarcerated people and no more than 60% of one gender.
In addition, callers demanded the civilian review board members should be compensated and have access to subpoena power and discipline.
City council members noted that more discussion is needed before the review board is established.
Ariel Calonne, the city attorney, said his office does not recommend or favor any particular system.
“The recommendation is really asking the City Council to design a public engagement process,” he said. “As a support function, our law office will have to be involved, but somebody else should be in the lead.”
Mayor Cathy Murillo said she is leaning toward asking members of the community to apply for a temporary commission. She granted a motion to work on developing a process to form a commission that will help the council with the civilian review board process.
The council set a target date of Aug. 18 to come up with the process.
“As soon as these workshops are taken to the community, we will start to hear relationships that people have with the police or interactions that they’ve had and that will inform us,” Mayor Murillo said.