A stark contrast can be seen when strolling down Linden Avenue in Carpinteria and comparing the commercial district to State Street in Santa Barbara.
Last month, Santa Barbara city officials expressed some concern that sales and bed taxes were down slightly. They said if that trend continues, it will be very difficult to fix potholes and build a new police station, just to name a few priorities.
South Coast commercial real estate officials seem to agree that the trend is for consumers to perhaps look at retail shop in commercial areas, but to buy mostly online. This means the municipality gets less sales tax revenue.
Last weekend, traffic in downtown Carpinteria was detoured to allow the city’s first Open Streets festival to take place on a sunny day under azure skies. That allowed passers-by a chance to see that most of the storefronts were not only occupied, but the businesses inside them seemed to be thriving.
The same can’t be said for State Street where each downtown block has at least several vacant spots. And, the 500-pound gorilla in the room can be seen in the 141,000-square-foot, three tier, empty former Macy’s building in Paseo Nuevo.
It might be like comparing an apple to a watermelon, given the length and breadth of State Street and the rather diminutive size of Linden Avenue. However, Linden has not always been so vibrant in years past.
And, not so many corporate businesses occupy Linden. The biggest appears to Smart & Final. Many mom-and-pop type stores and restaurants can be found Linden. That can’t be said of State Street any longer.
One observation that can be taken away from looking at Linden is that many of the products and services its businesses offer are usually not available online.
During the Open Streets event, it seemed a burger stand called the Spot never could be seen without a long line emanating from its it order window. Despite the traffic shutdown, Linden businesses kept right on bringing in customers.
Whatever Carpinteria is doing for its small commercial district seems to be working.