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Planning Commission moves forward with project looking to revitalize downtown Santa Maria

Designs for a vibrant, and safer downtown are one step closer to coming to life in Santa Maria. On Wednesday, the Planning Commission moved forward with a project aimed at attracting more businesses, improving traffic, among other things.

During a public hearing, some Santa Marians spoke before the Planning Commission about improving road safety.

“Twenty or thirty cars would go by and just won’t stop,” Ken Hough, of the Santa Barbara County Action Network, talked about busy traffic around Broadway and Main streets. ” We need crosswalks.”

“S peed limit signs don’t determine speed people travel,” resident David Dennis added.

“S anta Maria is well behind the curve when it comes to providing bike ways for our community,” another neighbor, Becky Deutsch, said.

With this in mind, the city’s Planning Commission voted in favor of a project that could change the Santa Maria experience for many.

“A s more and more people have the opportunity to slow down, to walk, to ride their bike, to take their kids on foot some place… I think everyone’s experience of Santa Maria will be enriched,” commission member, Kelly White O’Neill, said.

The Downtown Multimodal Streetscape Concept Plan looks to create wider sidewalks, better lighting, bike paths, and slower traffic.

“S anta Maria is sort of last to the party on some things and I feel like this is first to the party,” O’Neill said.

The plan will design narrower lanes to allow for wider sidewalks, and to incentivize drivers to slow down.

City leaders mentioned they’re mindful of roads with higher volumes of truck traffic, too.

“T here is a lot of truck traffic because you have a lot of business and commercial activity both within the city, and coming in and out of the region, which is critical for the economy,” Terri Persons, of Caltrans District 5 explained.

The concept will require a detailed traffic analysis before roads are modified.

“I s the plan perfect? No,” commissioner Robert Dickerson, said. ” But it’s a very good plan, and the enemy of a good plan is the hope of a perfect one.”

Last year, the City reached out to members of the community to draft the proposal.

“W e went to Allan Hancock College, we went to Santa Maria High School and spoke to students, we went to a variety of churches in the community,” Principal Planner Neda Zayer explained.

Zayer said they actively reached out members of the Hispanic and Mixteco communities, as well.

Hundreds of those surveyed said they wanted to see more shopping places, entertainment, and restaurants. Concerns over the growing homeless population were also brought up.

The Downtown Multimodal Streetscape Concept Plan is heading to the City Council’s table, where they’ll take a vote on January 15, 2019.

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