With the big end of the year sales push closing in, and downtown Santa Barbara in a slump, the intensity is going up from those who want action from the city council to help rejuvenate the economy.
The city can only do so much, and isn’t in the leasing business.
Many options that have been suggested lay out a faster track for new businesses to come in to the district where there are roughly 35 vacancies.
Assistant to the City Manager Nina Johnson presented a long list of actions underway now for the city and public to be reminded of. Those include ideas for new lighting, art, events, entertainment, expanded farmer’s market space, and extra safety teams day and night.
She said this was just the beginning and the list will always have room for new ideas.
Mayor Cathy Murillo made sure there would be more public outreach in the coming weeks for those who were not at today’s meeting.
The Downtown Organization says it’s ready to join into the plans and looks forward to a bustling holiday season and parade coming up in a few months.
When it comes to empty store fronts. Johnson says the city will be “getting more creative with vacant spaces, and we looked at different ways to create pop ups or art displays in windows just to make sure there is more appeal other than real estate signs in the vacant store fronts. ”
There’s also been talk of fast tracking certain permits that are not radically different from what was in a site before as it makes a transition to a new owner. “As a community we can lower the risks to get an entrepreneur started. We’ve got a lot of the vacant spaces, this is really an opportunity for us to help some entrepreneurs,” she said.
A group of business owners put together a multi-page proposal that included expedited inspections and permits, accountability from the city on review schedules, an option to hire an economic development person and an on going effort to deal with homelessness on the downtown streets.
Councilmember Randy Rowse was impressed with the turnout and the response. “These lists were specific action items, they are reasonable, they are doable and I am very excited about what you guys have put together for us.”
Some of the first actions to bring more businesses and excitement to the street will take place in early October over several days. The city says it will be able to evaluate the response from the public to different activities and business changes in the downtown area.
Some residents say a complete shutdown of the vehicles will allow more foot traffic and outside activities. Others say a rolling, block by block street party event that changes on a specific schedule will help all of the businesses.
In early September a “community table” concept will take place which is like a giant pot luck gathering to help bring friends , neighbors and visitors together for a meal. That will be held in the street around the Granada Theater. A similar idea in Montecito brought out more than 200 people in a community bonding event.
The Tuesday afternoon city council meeting on the downtown economy drew more than 100 people and an overflow room had to be used to attend the meeting and hear the discussion.