Will New Maps, More Pay Aid State St.?

New State Street shuttle sign indicate which buildings are going to be around for a while.

Downtown State Street has all of a sudden in 2017 become perhaps the key issue of this local election. It’s about time. 

Earlier, at least two panels were set up to study what to do about all the growing number of empty storefronts. The city council – with three of its members running for mayor this cycle – decided to “fast-track” plan approvals from Sola Street to Cabrillo Boulevard. Looking at the staff report, it appears more like a plan to spend more than a quarter-million dollars for inspectors and planners to get paid more to get the job done sooner than later. 

Not that that’s a terrible thing. However, more than meets the eye on State Street. 

A couple of properties, such as the long-vacant one on the 700 block and another where India House used to be on the 400 block, have had their interior demolished even though no new tenants have been announced. 

“To open any business downtown in a space that requires upgrades and changes, one must navigate through the City of Santa Barbara’s tedious permitting and review process,” commercial real estate broker Natalie Wagner wrote  in her latest newsletter. “In a much-needed stroke of action from the city to improve downtown, a six-month pilot program has been launched to expedite this process. So, it hopefully will be easier for businesses to open and ultimately reduce vacancies.” 

Wait and see if this short-term plan works. What happened to talk about putting housing on State Street? Apparently, that won’t win any votes right now. 

Well, at least the Hotel Californian has taken bookings for its cheapest rooms — $359 a night – starting Sept. 16. However, that’s problematic. No doubt the holdup is the permitting process. 

“Talk of the Funk Zone Waterfront area is usually coupled with talk of wineries and craft beer,” Wagner wrote. “While this is still very much the case, it is exciting to see creative local retailers such as Loveworn SB and The Shopkeepers recently open to create diversity and bring local flair to the area.” 

Wagner also said new to the scene is The Base, a multipurpose fitness facility at 116 Anacapa St., across from The Lucky Penny, and Shalhoob Meat Co., which has debuted its expansive outdoor patio at 220 Gray Ave., where they now serve lunch and dinner.

Retailers continue to see the value of having a brick and mortar store on State Street as Blue Bee Apparel Co. leases 1,935 square feet at 619 State St. and Santa Barbara Craft Ramen is “coming soon” to 436 State St., previously Bucatini, Wagner said.  

“Strong investment in State Street continues with an active sale market as 1209 State St. was recently purchased by the Unity Shoppe and the 6,000-square-foot building at 1207 State St., next to Benchmark Eatery, has come on the market at $2.375 million,” Wagner said. 

And, it appears the has invested in some new street maps posted at electric shuttle stops along State Street. Stay tuned for some new, larger shuttles to appear soon.

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