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Old Town Frown

Neglected Strip Has Potential to Be the Heart of Our City


Monday, October 12, 2009

Since its inception in 2002, the Goleta City government has worked tirelessly so that we Goletanos can have the quality of life that we enjoy. We’ve seen them spend endless meeting hours and staff time throughout the years to get our General Plan approved. Our city is more efficient and better organized. As the city Web site states: “Goleta remains a beautiful and safe small town community, with family-friendly neighborhoods, that values the environment, agriculture, and open space while providing housing, recreation and business opportunities.”

The City of Goleta has considered not only our present needs, but also the future. It hosted a series of workshops, in which many committed members of our community got together to talk about what Goletanos want. Thanks to that concerted effort, in 2007 the city adopted the Strategic Plan, which provides direction about what our values are, where we are going, and how we intend to get there. This is it, stripped down to its principles:

1. Advocate Goleta’s interest at the local, state, and federal level

2. Sustain sound fiscal and budgetary policy

3. Promote a healthy business climate.

4. Build, retain, and support highly qualified staff.

5. Enhance communication and services to the community.

6. Protect and preserve agriculture, environment, and open space.

7. Implement general plan measures.

8. Promote comprehensive housing programs.

9. Protect and promote character, quality, and diversity of neighborhoods.

10. Emphasize Old Town revitalization.

11. Create parks and recreation opportunities.

12. Enhance public safety and emergency preparedness.

13. Improve and maintain city infrastructure.

It was clear to those who participated that this was not a “to do” list in which our government would check things off and move to the next item. This is the criteria that the city government needs to work on constantly to ensure that we’re going in the right direction according to our core mission and values.

Of all these 13 points, number 10 is the one with which I have an issue. I don’t know about you, but I, like many of my friends, have a serious case of Old Town “frownitis,” and it hurts badly. Every time I drive by the area, that wrinkle between my eyes gets deeper. I’ve heard for years now that this part of our city is going to be rejuvenated, beautified; that trees and plants are going to ornament both sides of Hollister, that the community will look forward to hanging out there, and that by having more foot traffic, opportunities for businesses will be increased. The question is-when? No remedy for my condition at sight yet. And, if they take much longer, not even Botox will help.

I frown because Old Town has the potential to be the heart of our city, as opposed to the plain, unattractive, almost neglected looking strip that it is now. I understand there are infrastructure problems that need to be solved first. Well then, let’s start working on those.

There is another potential benefit of paying immediate attention to Old Town. The more lively and people-friendly it is, the less crime the area will have. Gangs will not be able to claim it as part of their turf, and, with more lighting and curbs, residents won’t fear for their safety at night.

Of all the points in the Strategic Plan, the beautification of Old Town seems to be the only one that our government has ignored. Yet this one project, when completed, could be a point of pride for our city, and the legacy of our city leaders. Future generations will know the names of those who make this miracle happen. Will our current city government and its leaders take on this project? Will the community be proactive in writing letters or calling City Council to let their voice be heard on this issue?

Change doesn’t happen in one day. But it won’t happen at all unless we take the first steps to make it happen. I don’t want to wait any longer for a community-welcoming Old Town. Do you?

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