ANALYSIS: Experiment Weekend Lively, But Chilly

Lower State Street’s Experiment Weekend was an exercise in live and learn, but most of that can be blamed on the gloomy, cool weather. 

It’s difficult to immediately assess the success of the two-day event since lower State Street is usually bustling on most April weekends, but it appeared everyone had a pretty good time on what appeared to be an “Open Streets-type” event. 

Ironically, the following day, Easter Sunday, was sunny and bright. A few folks questioned why the experiment was conducted on Easter and Passover weekend, when many families leave town or get ready for church services and egg hunts or Seder. 

By mid-day Saturday, the mayor said she only had one person question her about why the experiment was being held on Easter and Passover weekend. 

By and large, the experiment drew a nice crowd to watch Friday night videos on the Highway 101 underpass, paint on a community canvas, chalk up the street, play basketball, soccer and “Hawiian ping-pong” on three blocks of closed-to-vehicle-traffic State Street over the weekend. 

A pop-up store on the 400 block seemed to be doing brisk business selling clothes, accessories and knick-knacks. 

A number of local musicians braved chilled hands and performed a variety of numbers for passers-by. Among the acts on State Street were solo guitarist David Segall and a little later the Traveling Hurtados who also played earlier the same Saturday at Paseo Nuevo. 

Ironically, the Saturday sun didn’t come out round 5 p.m., as the Downtown Santa Barbara’s Kate Schwab predicted, but at least the event was bathed in about two hours of sunlight and blue skies.

Nina Johnson, a city official who is credited with coming up with the idea of Experiment Weekend, said the only snag she heard was that the recorded, electronic music in the underpass area had to be turned off at 10:30 p.m. Friday instead of midnight as advertised. 

The underpass is adjacent to the Wayfarer hostel with several hotels just a stone’s throw away. 

Will the experiment turn into a regular event aimed at bringing more people downtown in an effort to liven up the sagging commercial corridor economy? Perhaps. 

A lot may depend on surveys that were collect from folks who attended one or both of the days of the experiment. 

However, it’s more likely much of what to do about the State Street economy will depend on the June report by a Manhattan Beach consultant that the city paid $85,000 to write. 

Stay tuned. 

Posted April 21, 2019. 

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