State St. Parkway planning session comes with a buffet of ideas and opinions

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Based on a lengthy session focused on the future of State St. in Santa Barbara, there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution to revitalizing the neighborhood.

Members of the Historic Landmarks Commission and the Santa Barbara Planning Commission held a joint meeting on the area’s master plan.

It filled the Main Library’s Faulkner Gallery and was streamed online.

Many speakers spoke passionately, but not all were in favor of keeping the boardwalk as it is, or closing the street where it sits from Haley St. to Sola St.

Dave Davis is the chairman of the State Street Advisory Board and said there are many voices on the future of the parkway, as well as ever-changing economics and other factors.
“The biggest conflict I see is basically moving past that and looking forward to a 20-year vision which is very difficult as a community,” he said.

Safety, cleanliness and the protection of architectural designs were the main themes.

Even though pressure washing takes place regularly and deep cleaning every quarter, a tour guide said it was not enough.

“It’s very embarrassing how dirty the streets are and how smelly they are,” Nancy Palmer said. “I know a lot of people who won’t go downtown because of this.”

One resident, Steve Paladino, said the shared space has many competing interests. “We have to see if we can do everything, can we have public transport, can we have bicycles, can we have pedestrians, can we have parklets.”

Much of the discussion returned to the development of different concepts in different areas of the promenade, including the expected changes to De la Guerra Square, the Paseo Nuevo shopping center and the Library Square.

Regarding outdoor dining, Cass Ensberg, a member of the Historic Landmarks Commission, said: “I would like to suggest that we immediately make every effort to put our restaurants back on the pavement and make them as large as possible. while respecting the public right of way.”

Housing continues to be a high priority for the downtown corridor and several projects are in the planning and development stages.
Planning Commissioner Lesley Wiscomb said: “State Street is a place where we live, work and play. I know we hear that often, but the live part isn’t here yet.”

A community member said the city should now reopen the street, do its study, then go back and close all or part of the parkway when it has a master plan.

A presentation at the session also included slides from other downtown areas that have had successful designs. They included Boulder, San Antonio and Seattle.

MIG consultants are working with the city and have a plan to cover a lot of ground to make the ride sustainable, experiential, flexible and a world class destination.

They also want to include non-traditional groups, including the younger generation.

State Street Senior Planner Tess Harris asked attendees to “close their eyes” and imagine the state street they want to see as part of the conversations they will have at future meetings.

Opal restaurant owner Richard Yates says he respects the city’s decisions to have updated rules on the boardwalk, but urges policymakers to be flexible and creative.

A recurring message was about safety and how to deal with out-of-control cyclists or wanderers.

Community outreach events will take place several times over the next few weeks, including November 3 and 4.

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