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Money and Business

‘Gateway’ block to downtown Santa Barbara wants more attention from promenade designers

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It's been a night-and-day type difference between two "gateway" blocks to downtown Santa Barbara since the new promenade was developed in an ever-changing way.

The latest message is coming out loudly from business owners on the 400 block between Gutierrez Street and Haley Street. That is the first block into downtown from the underpass from the waterfront area.

Businesses have said the promenade closure and added improvements have started at Haley.

Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez said he has been receiving a lot of input and ideas. He wants further discussions to actively include the 400 block on the list of improvements.

"Those businesses and property owners have not felt that they have been treated equitably," he said.

"I haven't heard too much about what's going to happen with that 400 block," said Gutierrez.

Mayor Cathy Murrillo said she too has been receiving messages.

First responders often use that block to get to waterfront calls when they are downtown.

To make a change will require a circulation discussion for all vehicles in that block or nearby streets.

Safety issues in the 400 block have included the shared space between pedestrians, vehicles, bicyclists and patios where dining and music have been taking place.

At La Aroma De Havana Cigar Lounge, owner Moises Medina said he views it as a way to welcome people into downtown. "I think it is a gateway when you are coming from the beach," he said.

Vehicle traffic has been conflicting and possibly a deterrent. "When you are out having a drink or with the family, you don't want to have the thoughts of a car speeding by," said Medina.

The irony is, the 500 block from Haley up has become one of the more popular blocks in the State Street promenade. Efforts are underway to have some synergy between the two adjacent blocks.   

Gutierrez supports the possible changes, saying, "I think everyone, hands down, agrees that the 400 block should be the gateway block to Santa Barbara, to State Street, and right now it doesn't seem like that."

Medina sees local and international visitors every week and says there's room for more with plenty to do. "It can be a magnificent location. We have about nine to 10 businesses that are on this block, you've got four to five restaurants, you've got three to four bars, you've got a brewing company."

Input is coming in from many interested parties on the block. "I've gotten to know the business owners, the property owners and the people that work here," said Gutierrez. "They are hard-working people that love their community, that love State Street. They just want to be treated fairly just like all the other blocks."

He worries about any delays. "I just feel like we really need to do something with this block before the businesses start to really really suffer," said Gutierrez.    

A longer-term discussion on the promenade is expected to take place Tuesday and ahead when a special sub-committee will be established to work on ideas and changes for the next year and possibly beyond.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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