After yet another report on what to do with the State Street corridor and hearing a couple dozen more ideas from the public, the Santa Barbara City Council voted Aug. 14 to pass the buck.
The council voted unanimously to hire a business consultant at an as-yet-unknown cost. It should be noted that this council has three new members and a first-term mayor.
A staff report pointed to 50 items that are being done to help the State Street dilemma, which ranged from fixing crumbling news racks on the commercial corridor to providing more public information to prevent panhandling.
In the end, faced with a myriad of public ideas, the council decided to find a way to merge them with the 50 other municipal projects in the works.
An ad hoc subcommittee of council members will pick the consultant who will join other city staff members and the Downtown Organization in finding solutions to the growing problems on State Street. The Downtown Organization has been operating without a permanent leader since the beginning of the year when the last one departed.
Downtown problems include homeless beggars, empty storefronts and restaurants and soaring rents, to name a few.
Among the overflow crowd in the council chambers, one of the prominent voices offered a suggestion to make State Street “bold” as so many other cities, like Denver, have done with their downtown areas.
Former city attorney Steve Amerikaner told the council that it needs a bold plan to make Santa Barbara’s downtown the special place it has been for so many years.
As always, city staff was upbeat with its assessment of what is being done to keep the downtown corridors from resembling Skid Row.
Most of the remedies are “pending,” “underway” or “ongoing,” but a few are listed as “completed.” The finished items include four fountains now being decorated with plants, new tourist signs and updated electric shuttles, which have had mixed reviews.
“Ongoing” items include upcoming pop-up Halloween and holiday shops in the old Macy’s building and addition of some electric vehicle chargers.
“Underway” items include electrical infrastructure improvements, to be completed by 2021, and an $878,000 grant to pay for signs, information and enforcement of no-smoking in outdoor areas.
“Pending” items include a single-serve alcohol sales ordinance to be voted on next month and a law that would further prohibit sitting or lying on State Street and a section of Haley Street.
The complete list is available at the City Clerk’s Office or at https://records.santabarbaraca.gov/OnBaseAgendaOnline/Documents/ViewDocument/Attachment%202%20-%20GENERAL.pdf?meetingId=390&documentType=Agenda&itemId=11823&publishId=6441&isSection=false