SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Last May, the City of Santa Barbara sealed off eight blocks on State Street to stretch out space for small businesses dealing with difficulties brought on by the pandemic.
One year later, the State Street promenade is filled with foot traffic.
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo says it has provided a much-needed spark downtown.
“The promenade has created excitement and foot traffic,” she said. “It has resulted in a boost to these businesses.”
At Chase Restaurant, the street’s closure to cars has provided a big benefit.
“Who knew if you opened up outside in one of the most beautiful places in the country weather-wise,” general manager Warren Butler reflected. “Here we are, people are just loving it and taking advantage of it.”
With Memorial Day on the way, this weekend is expected to be even busier than last year.
“Based on last year when we opened up on Memorial Day, it was a big surprise and was overwhelming,” Butler said. “Now we’re a little more prepared.”
With all the energy and excitement taking place on the promenade, one may wonder what would have happened if State Street had stayed the same way it was prior to the pandemic.
“I think a lot more people would have closed,” Butler said. “Definitely temporarily, if not for good.”
Although the street has been upgraded with permanent pots, green bike lanes and plenty of parklets; improvements must be made.
“We still have some empty storefronts,” Murillo said. “So we’re still working on recruiting businesses to come here.”
Looking ahead, there’s plenty of plans in place to make the promenade a permanent part of town.
In July, the Santa Barbara City Council will establish an advisory committee to guide the production of State Street’s master plan.
“When pandemic conditions allow, we’ll have concerts, dance floors and kids activities,” Murillo concluded. “This will allow people to come down and enjoy themselves.”
The city ordinance keeping cars off State Street has been extended until March of 2022.