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Santa Barbara downtown business slump worries some city leaders

The days of coffee shops, boutique stores, and one of a kind restaurants have been good to Santa Barbara over the years. These days, it’s hard to tell if that is a sustainable business plan anymore for some owners.

Commercial real estate brokers are pounding in their signs at many locations, about 45 according to one longtime agent, right in the State St. corridor and surrounding streets.

It is similar to the recession years, except the economy now is much stronger. How can this be?

Maggie Campbell with the Downtown Organization told the Santa Barbara City Planning Commission recently, a study is underway to find out what is causing the slump. Results will be out in April. Already there are indicators that tourists and teens have been a targeting audience in recent years – something that may not be working anymore. Real data and analysis will give some deeper insights.

“We are seeing a serious change in our retail mix and a serious exodus of traditional users that we have never seen before and I don’t see that in other cities at the same rate,” said Campbell.

A resident and vendor Martin Irabien says “the (landlords) should be less greedy.” He recalls smaller stores years ago with lower rents and longer occupancy.

Some residents say the Funk Zone is drawing some of the crowd away along with on line sales and convenient home delivery.

Planners have said they want to see the upcoming report and as many other indicators as they can as they make decisions that could have an impact on businesses in the future.

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