The city of Solvang’s new Brand and Design Committee hosted an in-person and virtual workshop Wednesday afternoon to discuss design options for Copenhagen Drive.
The street, which has been closed for the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was voted on by the city back on Sept. 14 to remain closed through Oct. 31, 2021. The city hopes the closure will continue helping curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, while also sustaining its local economy.
The original closure was, in part, to allow businesses to expand outdoors in order to help them comply with social distancing requirements. This helped the city increase its tourism rate during the pandemic.
The goal of Wednesday’s workshop was to hear public comments from the locals in order to help make future decisions.
Michael and Diane Braun, co-owners of Pebble People in Solvang, expressed their frustration of not being able to provide public comments during last week’s city council hearing on this issue.
“We’ve talked to several other businesses and we realized the city council came to the approval. Keeping the closure going for another year without speaking to any of the businesses and so we just didn’t feel like that was right,” Ms. Braun said.
Others expressed their concerns with the design project itself. David Rasmussen, who lives on Copenhagen Drive, said he thought the idea to close the street back in June was “a great thing.” He also shared that he was worried about Solvang losing its unique features.
“I’m concerned that we’re losing 55 parking places. I am concerned that we are losing our small town’s specialness and most of these walking streets are in larger cities and they are doing that to have something cozier. We have a cozy town and we should celebrate the architecture we have,” he said.
Most participants supported the concept of closing the street and offered suggestions to improve the look of the closure while keeping the city’s small-town feel.
“I think we can do a better job of what we have for sure and make it look more inviting. We need consistency,” said Linda Johansen.
People also expressed concerns with pop-up canopies and large banners.
“Not only do they take away from the architecture, but also take away divisibility from signs from other shops, which is very troublesome… Anything that is big and out of code clashes with these guidelines and it takes away visibility from other businesses, which is very impactful particularly for shops that are smaller or away from the location between,” said Claudia Orona.
Rene Kaerskov, one of the members of the Branding and Design Committee, went through some of his ideas on Wednesday. This included having street and sidewalk seating, green barriers that blend in with the trees on Copenhagen Drive and at least cohesive furniture, preferably all black so it blends.
He also encouraged having flowers and planters but with black pots, all the same color so it blends in with the asphalt.
He did note some issues with his own ideas, but said it was a starting point.
“The city council can see all the different categories of what you’re recommending and get costs for those different items and figure out how much they want to spend or not spend,” shared a city staff member taking notes during the meeting.
Another committee member shared her experience visiting Santa Barbara and State Street and noted some of the issues she observed.
“I took a drive down there with my husband just to see how it all worked with the downtown closure and I spent almost no time there because there was not room for social distancing, and there was a significant lack of compliance and wearing masks,” she said.
“We want people to come here and feel that they can walk around and enjoy it and be safe.”
The committee agreed on the following list to be submitted for consideration to the city council: lighting, shading, street barriers, furniture, signage, seating enclosures or screens, and flower pots.
The items they do not want to see included enclosed walls, large banners, pop-up canopies and off-site signage.