DID YOU KNOW? Bonnie Donovan
Hundreds of thousands of dollars has already been spent over the last decade trying to come up with a viable plan for redesigning the Santa Barbara downtown corridor.
A lot of this money has paid consultants and hires from out of the area, from Chicago to Santa Monica to San Francisco.
One of our contributors remembers talking with the Funk Zone people about how the city asked them, “How did you make the Funk Zone happen and get all the people to come down here?”
Brian Kelly, the mastermind behind the Funk Zone, was never offered any money by the city of Santa Barbara to help with the downtown planning and design. Imagine if they had offered Mr. Kelley even $250,000 to help them fix State Street, way back when?
No, what they did was pay Kosmont $84,000 for an analysis. Then they hired Jason Harris for $182,000, for the economic development of State Street.
Mr. Harris comes from Santa Monica, with its three-block horizontal Third Street Promenade, NOT the one-mile vertical being proposed for State Street, which spills out directly onto the beach.
Still, nothing happens.
Lastly, the city creates the State Street Advisory Committee and hires this San Francisco Company (MIG) for $800,000-plus.
When will we get a workable plan?
Santa Barbara, be aware that the American Institute of Architects has been relentlessly advising the city for everything to which THEY want to change Santa Barbara downtown. Which is taking our parking lots for high-rise, high-density housing units, which will change its skyline and the ambiance,and destroy the charm forever.
Remember Rob Dayton, the former head of transportation, who said that we needed a shuttle to bring the people and employees to the Funk Zone because of a lack of parking?
Recall also when the city was put on notice because the tour buses parking on Montecito Street endangered the drivers as they crossed into oncoming traffic? Then Mr. Dayton proposed the e-bikes would move in and receive free land to park their bikes, taking away the shuttle space. And now the shuttle is gone …
Do you remember Michael Rosenfeld, who built the Hotel Californian, only getting approval after he paid to increase the sidewalks on lower State Street and remove a driving lane? And he was also required to build and provide a city parking lot. Why then is the developer with the project at 121 E. Mason St. allowed to build without a city parking lot in the Funk Zone without having to pay to build the pedestrian sidewalks there?
But a bad precedent has been set by the “development agreement” the city made for the approval of the behemoth 4-story (52-foot), 82-unit building approved at 701 N Milpas St.
Now for the 121 E. Mason project, the city is also considering a “development agreement.” And according to staff, the project moves with the “development agreement.” (Sounds like it is already said and done.) Interesting — more back-door action for a pointed political agenda. Unrestrained building.
Recently observing Kevin Moore chair the Architectural Board of Review and formulate the findings was like watching someone wade through the mire. The neighbors and workforce already ensconced in the Funk Zone, many of whom in fact helped create the eclectic low-key atmosphere of the area, pleaded against the large project.
Meanwhile, the ABR ticked off reasons it wasn’t “all wrong” on its compatibility checklist —the most egregious being “not obstructing public views.” This is priceless.
The very hypocrisy was when the ABR member asked the project manager, “Tell me again why the property is oriented at an angle?”
The project manager blatantly replied, “For the views.” Oh, for the very views, the ABR continues to aver are NOT a factor.
During this same ABR meeting, 150 letters of protest were received against this project for the 45 feet — asking for 60 feet in height, 155 units. Numerous speakers at the podium begged the ABR to deny the project as is. They noted it’s too large, unattractive, out of scale, blocking mountain views, exceeds the height limits, would dominate the Funk Zone, and displaces users of commercial fishing. CPA Citizens Planning Association spoke against it, and others said the Castagnola legacy would be lost rather than protected and revered.
We know what is going on here. As a community, we just seem unwilling to stand up to stop it.
When crossing State Street at Micheltorena, look south to the ocean, where we once were afforded a beautiful view — of the ocean!
But not anymore. Now one sees a mishmash of riff-raff lean-tos, more reminiscent of a Middle Eastern bazaar. It’s a mess.
And the State Street Committee has just received shy of $800,000 for a “plan only,” which won’t be up and running for 18 months – 2-3 years? Or perhaps not even until 2030.
Two of the city’s previous studies cited, “You don’t make streets busier by closing them.”
It seems hard to fathom what will hold attraction for State Street in the meantime. Sounds like the financing isn’t a done deal, except for the “Measure C” 1 cent sales tax, which seems to be spread everywhere. Like a magician’s hat and wand.
Santa Barbara’s State Street could command the same notoriety as other famous world destinations. The Champ-Elysée in Paris, Park Avenue in New York City, Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Avenida Corrientes in Buenos Aires, Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and even the other State Street, the one in Chicago.
Imagine any of these famous boulevards with random parklets, blocking traffic and cluttering their stately beauty.
And, unfortunately, the whole “promenade” question has become super politicized. Some city council members recently suggested that they cannot support anything less than a closed downtown State Street, or they will lose the local Democratic. Central Committee’s endorsement in their next election.
How many registered Democrats who voted for this present city council and the last mayor are aware that those elected must acquiesce to represent that party’s agenda rather than to serve the needs of this very rare and unique community? Some of the contributors to this column are registered Democrats, and they didn’t realize it. And if they didn’t realize it, as involved as they are in city politics, how many other registered Democrats would be aware of this?
“Promenade” failures in both European and American cities are documented as far back as the 1970s.
According to Alan Ehrenhalt, “you don’t take cars out of downtown and expect people to flood in.”
Who besides developers in this city wants to build high density and to block views? Who wants to permanently reduce State Street to a series of parklets and bicycle lanes?
We can only imagine it is those elected who want to stay elected at any cost, forever changing Santa Barbara as we know it.
“Density and length are related to success.”
— Michael Berne