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Santa Barbara City Council votes to pursue State Street parklet fee structure

Santa Barbara City Council sets some interim parklet guidelines until master plan is done

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.- The Santa Barbara City Council may not be able to please everyone, but it is trying, when it comes to closures along its historic State Street that began during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, Santa Barbara City Council members voted unanimously to direct city staff to pursue a fee structure on the State Street Promenade and the 400 and 1300 blocks of State Street.

During the Interim Operations update there was discussion of a $5 per square foot fee, but restaurant owners including Opal Owner Richard Yates hopes it will be half that or linked the income from outdoor dining.

The fee structure will go to the finance committee and take effect in February.

The council then voted 5-2 to approve a motion that will allow permanent parklets to stay put until the State Street Master Plan is complete.

The interim guidelines require all new parklets to be portable.

They also require parklets meet storm flow compliance and they keep parades off State Street during the interim period.

Mayor Randy Rowse voted no after calling the current conditions a "Hodgepodge." Rowse shared his concerns over the winners and losers in the economic pie on and off State Street.

Councilmember Eric Friedman also voted no. Friedman said his main concerned it safety. He spoke out about storm drain blockage and vermin that could burrow underneath the parklet's construction.

During in-person and virtual public comments majority of the speakers said visitors enjoy the outdoor dining space on State Street.

But people who manage businesses and favor reopening the street to cars spoke up about the way parklets with roofs block signage of the majority of business that are not bars and restaurants.

Parade volunteers want to make sure the Fiesta, Solstice, and Holiday parades have a route that maximizes the audiences along the path.

Fiesta First Vice President David Bolton said they lost about 30 percent of the parade-goers when El Desfile Historico went along Cabrillo Blvd. He said he is okay with parades winding onto Santa Barbara Street which is also historic.

People calling in want to make sure the future decisions follow Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines as required by law.

City staff said portability could be too costly for businesses that have already invested in outdoor dining areas.

Yates said, "Today was a good day for the vibrancy of downtown Santa Barbara. It allows outdoor businesses that have weathered th storm of the pandemic to continue doing business as they have."

He said the interim guidelines help.

"By giving us better defined guidelines, the interim period will now be a clearer transitional pathway and a more secure bridge to the future which the city's master plan will determine when its complete," said Yates.

Councilmembers talked about future compromises that may allow the city to have it all, but they acknowledged it will be difficult to please everyone.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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