SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Santa Barbara Westside neighborhood is gearing up for a street closure to help revive the economy during the COVID-19 recovery period.
It takes place this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to sunset.
The area is described by many as resilient but this economic set back has impacted some of the city's smallest businesses hard.
Wasting no time, after seeing the surge in activity in downtown Santa Barbara during the multi-block closure there, community leaders led by the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce came up with a workable plan for the Westside.
The event will be called Weekends on the Westside.
The area between Sola St. and Micheltorena St. will be closed to traffic.
Businesses will be able to utilize the street for tables and the sale of their goods whether they are a restaurant or a retail site.
Santa Barbara City Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez says he hopes not just the immediate local residents come out because, "coming to the Westside it feels a bit like going back in time."
Hispanic Chamber Co-President Miguel Avila says the timing was right.
"It is unfortunate that we are going through this Covid-19 pandemic but you gotta grab the bull by the horns and run with it," he said.
Hispanic Chamber Co-President Jacqueline Inda said the organization saw the opportunity to help small businesses and unite the community with this event as a starting point. "We join together to do what we could to lead this effort so our businesses would not die off in this pandemic."
The idea has been around in one form or another for some time but the current conditions are kick starting it.
Gutierrez says, "We're finally able to do it now and give residents here an area where they can socialize and buy things." He stresses it is not a block party or a street festival which is not allowed under the current COVID rules.
Those attending will be asked to wear masks and move about with appropriate spacing.
In recent weeks, benefits from opening up the sidewalks and streets in downtown Santa Barbara has made the area vibrant again in several blocks, but that is still a work in progress.
Inda says for the Westside, "this would give some flexibility to those businesses in dire need for support right now. Some of these businesses are so small they really don't have the ability to do the foot traffic and six foot distancing."
The event will also highlight the uniqueness of the area.
Gutierrez says, "there are no chains here on this part of town. It is a very diverse and complex community and it's a good place to know people."
The movement is expected to broaden out in the days and weeks ahead.
The organizers hope to have a weekend event through at least Labor Day.
Other areas of the city may also benefit from the Hispanic Chamber's efforts and they have conversations underway. Mayor Cathy Murillo has a task for looking at revitalization opportunities throughout the city.
"I've been giving my input for the Eastside the Westside and the other areas that are also business districts of the City of Santa Barbara, not just State Street.," said Avila.