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Santa Barbara - South County

New committee looks at the future of downtown Santa Barbara and its promenade

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A new 15-member committee has been seated to review and create recommendations for downtown Santa Barbara, and especially its new, but still temporary, promenade.

The featured sections of downtown are in the core of an 11 block footprint that the committee is looking at stretching from the State Street underpass at Highway 101 up to Sola Street.

The promenade was created as an emergency response during the first wave of the COVID -19 pandemic as a way to provide outside seating for restaurants and other space for retail store to accommodate customers when there were inside restrictions.

There were guidelines to follow but the big picture look at what has happened, what works and how this fits in to existing plans that were already in motion. These questions will be the work of this committee.

Prior to COVID, downtown was in a backslide in many areas with vacancies and a drop in foot traffic.

The pandemic created new concerns, but for those who were still out, the promenade was a new place for bikes, pedestrians and open space without cars.

There are many issues the committee will discuss including the size of parklets and patios, design guidelines that fit into the El Pueblo Viejo District and the number of blocks for the promenade if it remains.

Currently, the emergency ordinance will extend to March of 2022.

"I think it is absolutely fabulous and I think it probably should  have been done before," said Rebecca Bender while walking down the street with her dob.

The area has also been considered for various redesign ideas, especially in coordination with work on De la Guerra Plaza.

The promenade zone across the board has been a favored location for future economic vitality, events, community gatherings, arts and a destination for both local residents and tourists.

Dave Davis is the new Committee Chairman. He said, "I think the council did a great job basically appointing the right folks at the right time on the right issue."

 Meeting via zoom,  the committee came from a field of about 100 interested people.

Santa Barbara Economic Development Manager Jason Harris said surveys have been done with about 5000 people both on line and in person. "We posed that question - 'what do you hope for in 10 years' in the visioning of State Street  and it was recognized as the cultural heart of Santa Barbara,  attractive, walkable, clean, thriving,  retail, more pedestrians "

Going forward some of the community recommendations were "to revitalize  downtown a major driving opportunity create a safer experience  economic revitalization opportunity to be focused on people help facilitate housing  recapture  reestablish downtown's identity," said Harris.

Weather is a factor to the outside appearance and use. Bender said, "we live in an environment  that can handle the weather and everybody I know loves eating outside they love the idea of the promenade."

Walking with a friend from out of the area, John Gonzales from Carpinteria was showing the promenade concept. He said, "keep it open, more or less the same way we have it right now just more decorative and reflect the style we have here in  Santa Barbara. "

The next committee meeting is in September and all meetings are open to the public and agenda items will have a public comment section.

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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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