The City of Santa Barbara will join a countywide effort to draft a broadband strategic plan and contribute just over $60,000 for the plan’s creation.
Santa Barbara City Council heard from Santa Barbara County Association of Governments executive director Marjie Kirn and Dr. Bill Simmons, collaborative developer for Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast, prior to reaching a decision during its meeting Tuesday.
In July, SBCAG formed an ad hoc committee to look at the future of high speed internet in the county. And last month, the committee voted to create a strategic plan with the help of BCPC and sign memorandums of understanding with each municipality.
Dr. Simmons has seen BCPC, which was established in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties in 2014, change because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we found through COVID was just having a home with two working folks, teleworking with kids going to school, was a problem,” he said. “We didn’t have that capacity.
“Within the last 18-24 months, we’ve got new mandates that have been thrust upon us and projects, tranches of funding, waves of funding. And the mandate is: broadband for all.”
The bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden on Monday allots $65 billion to provide broadband access. Ms. Kirn anticipates an additional $6 billion from the State.
Dr. Simmons presented the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians as an example. The band received $50,000 from the Department of the Interior a year ago to create a strategy to connect networks. Their plan resulted in $6.6 million in funding.
The City of Cuyama learned last Friday that it was awarded $12.5 million to complete a fiber optic connection from Santa Maria to Cuyama.
“What we’re wanting to do is regionalize this conversation, get this kind of conversation going in each city, each municipality to identify those neighborhoods in position to get those kinds of funds for those needs,” Dr. Simmons said.
He estimates the planning process to take six or seven months. Ms. Kirn projects it will take until the end of 2022.
Santa Barbara County contributed $200,000 to the estimated $400,000 in planning costs. Each municipality is requested to provide a portion based on population.
The City Council also heard an update from the newly-formed State Street Advisory Committee, which has had four monthly meetings.
State Street Master Planner Tess Harris told the council she anticipates having a master plan completed by the end of 2023. The committee hopes to hire a consultant to work through designs mid-2022, she said.
Councilmember Eric Friedman asked about the interim, specifically addressing parklet standards and parades. Ms. Harris said she will look at that for the next meeting, when the extension of the interim urgency ordinance will be discussed.
The committee was formed to make long-range discussions, so Councilmember Kristen Sneddon asked if a subcommittee could make interim decisions.
“We know that there are a number of items that we need to address sooner than later to provide businesses the understanding of what’s going forward and then also just clarity in general for downtown,” Ms. Harris said. “At the same time, I want to make sure that we’re really thoughtful in the approach and get a consultant on board to really show us what conceptual designs might look like beforehand.”
The committee added elements to the scope of the master plan, which the council approved, including: parking, stormwater management, sustainability and resiliency and implementation plan and phasing.
Councilmember Sneddon proposed to include view corridors in the scope.
Mayor Cathy Murillo disagreed, saying the addition may slow down the development of housing.
“To me looking down the expanded list that has streetscape design amenities and transportation circulation and different elements that are sort of ground-looking, like looking at the ground and the streetscape and how that all functions,” Councilmember Sneddon said. “Just a consideration of view corridors. I’m not saying preserve that; I’m not saying whatever. But just have that be part of the conversation.”
The rest of the City Council (other than Mike Jordan, who was absent) agreed and added it to the master plan.
The City Council is scheduled to take a two-week break and meet again Dec. 7.