SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Now that the public has seen the look of Santa Barbara's downtown with many closed off streets thanks to the State Street Promenade, ideas on what comes next are being considered.
The temporary closure to stir economic vitality during and after the COVID-19 pandemic has come with a strong sense of support, but not a full backing on the concept, size, appearance and historic compatibility with the traditions of the city.
One thing is clear for the city's decision makers: there's still work to do.
A special State Street Advisory Committee (SSAC) has been meeting since summer and will gather monthly to talk about steps going forward, along with the outside help that will be necessary.
That committee is made of of three Council Members, one Planning Commissioner, one Historic Landmarks Commissioner, three members representing property or business owners, seven at-large members, and two alternates.
The committee is providing input on the State Street Master Plan that will be presented to several levels of decision makers including the City Council.
An update will be presented to the council Tuesday.
In it the report says the goals include:
- Create a sense of place for the entire community to enjoy by re-envisioning, enhancing, and effectively managing an exciting, clean, thriving, and engaging public space in downtown Santa Barbara.
- Reimagine how people of all abilities travel through and experience downtown.
- Identify solutions that bring vitality to the State Street business community while also attracting local residents and tourists who, in turn, invest in our community.
- Emphasize experiential and outdoor uses of underutilized space.
- Learn from the past and take a holistic approach to evaluating transportation, housing, changes to the retail market, shifts in commercial and office space, homelessness, economic development, and the COVID-19 pandemic response.
- Recognize existing conditions and critical infrastructure needs to support a pedestrian-centric and business friendly downtown.
The work of the committee will continue well into 2022 when funding may be approved to add outside help and go forward with public engagement meetings; not just in the core downtown area, but throughout the South Coast.
Some of the key areas of discussion so far include:
• Streetscape design and amenities
• Transportation, circulation, and parking
• Housing and redevelopment influences
• Economic development
• Historic resources
• Equity and accessibility
• Homeless engagement
• Public art
• Operations and maintenance
• Funding strategy
• Sustainability infrastructure
• Implementation plan and phasing
The downtown promenade has also opened up options for other areas of the city with the design of parklets and patios, overhead lighting, art work and amenities. This report to the council, however, will only be on the State Street corridor.
That area is generally described as, from the freeway underpass to Sola Street and then out a block each direction.
"We thought why don't they do this everywhere. It is just perfect it's perfect," said Kay Love while sipping coffee at an outside cafe. "Especially with dogs and Covid, it makes it great. Be outdoors."
She was with Francisco Valdovinos and their two dogs. They also brought along electric bikes. "It is fantastic, just walking through the streets without having to worry about cars and traffic. This is so attractive, we want to come back again and again."
"I think it is better," said Sydney Hedrick. "I remember when we could drive down it. I mean it was kind of like a pain in the butt but now it works great and it's really nice for everyone to walk."
The promenade is also considered a more welcoming component to connect the waterfront and Funk Zone to the core of downtown.
"Even though the promenade has been around for more than a year, the discussion and analysis of what could possibly happen in the downtown corridor will continue well into 2022."
Certain aspects of it get a favorable review day or night, mainly restaurants, retail and entertainment.
Yoshaniek Brown has seen other outside retail areas in Southern California. "I think it is nice. I like the fact that because of Covid there are restaurants outside. You can see people dining out." She favors a plan that has, "a little bit of everything and the aesthetics and the environment is so important. The ambiance especially like night time, to have the lighting."