SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The State Street promenade in Santa Barbara has been wildly popular with many residents, visitors and business owners with only a small amount of rejection, but what you see now will not be what you see later this year.
The city is asking about 25 businesses to reshape their outside patios to make more room for first responders, mainly the Santa Barbara City Fire Department.
The meandering route in place now in some blocks has 14 and a half feet of space for the apparatus to get in but not enough room for multiple pieces of equipment and for crews to work around the rigs, especially in a multi-casualty or multi-structure emergency.
The State Street Advisory Committee has been told the fire department needs a 20 foot path down the middle, and on several blocks that does not currently exist.
In a presentation with photo examples of fire rigs in tight spots, Santa Barbara City Fire Marshal Ryan Diguilio said, "although you might look at these pictures and our apparatus can get down State Street, we have zero working area to actually perform the duties we may or may not need to utilize."
The department also wants it down the middle of the street, not in a design that has twists and turns.
Notices have gone out. Talks and timing of the changes are all in the discussion this week with the city, downtown business owners and the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization.
The goal is to have this completed by March 8.
O'Malley's owner Dan Baham said, soon you will see, "a bunch of sawzalls and chain saws are going have to happen to cut some iron and wood."
Some business owners say the design has worked so far, and changes will hurt businesses at a time when COVID is surging. They are not against complying with the fire access needs, but an early discussion of this change may have made it more manageable.
"Oh completely blindsided. I am going into 2022 thinking I've got enough gut punches in 2021 maybe this will be a little better year. It's not starting off that way," said Baham. "What I would have liked is, if they needed 20 feet and that was the guideline was why didn't they just tell us 20 feet in the beginning? That would have been a lot easier than to put all of this work in to these things."
In general, businesses with outdoor dining structures on State Street are built out into the area where the 20 foot fire lane will need to be implemented.
Notices have gone out to:
Arigato, Sportsman, Good Lion, Draughtsman, Mizza, Andersons, Chase, Californio Pizza, Caje, Kai, Apna, M Special, Wylde Works, Night Lizard, Joe’s, Old King’s Road, Tribal Rugs, Sharkeez, O’Malley’s, Red Piano, James Joyce, Sandbar, Holdren’s, Natural Café, E-Bikery, Hibachi.
At Tribal Rugs, owner Masood Azizi said, "I had no idea they were telling us there were going to be some changes but I didn't know what they were going to be ."
He says as a retailer, showing his display of Middle Eastern rugs has been a boost ."All these rugs, we show them, they see them, they like them. But if they are folded they don't see them. So it is nice to display them." As he was telling his story, a shopper came buy and selected a small rug and made a purchase.
The city is also recommending that new parklets and patios in the promenade area, built after January 25 be made with a portable design. The intent is to move them for special events, parades, cleaning and possibly if large storms are forecasted.
Baham says he sweeps and cleans his area daily. Often it has leaves from trees in the area.
The city has a power washing program in place, but new Mayor Randy Rowse has said cleanliness is a priority for him, especially in areas where there's heavy foot traffic such as the promenade.
Even with some changes and discomfort now, the promenade's future is calling for a big picture discussion to be an economic success. "Make it look nice. We are Santa Barbara. Let's conform it and make it look really nice."
More details and video will be added here later today.
Watch tonight on NewsChannel 3-11-12.