After more flipping and flopping than a dying fish inside a boat, the Santa Barbara City Council voted 5-2 not to install new bulb-outs at Carrillo and Anacapa streets, Santa Barbara’s most collision-prone intersection. City traffic engineers initially proposed the bulb-outs to slow down Anacapa Street traffic, to give pedestrians a shorter crossing distance and to create a more visible perch for the streetlight. Traffic engineers assumed that 11 of the 49 collisions at that intersection in recent years could be attributed to poor streetlight visibility.
But at the urging of the Historic Landmarks Commission, the council opted not to install the bulb-outs, always lightning rods for public controversy, and simply to install a new streetlight that hangs over the intersection like a mast. In the past, that same commission had opposed those “mast-arm” streetlight fixtures because they cluttered the skyline. “A lot of people are tired of fighting over this line in the sand, and I’m one of them,” said Councilmember Bendy White, who voted against the bulb-out design.
After White announced his intentions, Councilmember Das Williams — an ardent supporter of bulb-outs in the past — joined him. Williams, who is now running for State Assembly, said the bulb-out controversy was too silly to impale himself upon. This left Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Grant House the last holdouts in favor. In the shorthand of Santa Barbara’s symbolic politics, bulb-outs have been bitterly opposed by those who regard efforts to make Santa Barbara’s streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians as a form of social engineering. Councilmembers Dale Francisco, Michael Self, and Frank Hotchkiss all campaigned for office, in part, on their opposition to bulb-outs. In her remarks, Self went so far as to say they were the reason she got elected.