The lower end of Mission Canyon houses a dense set of cultural institutions,including the Old Mission Santa Barbara, Mission Historical Park, the former St.Anthony’s Seminary (now Garden Street Academy), St. Mary’s Retreat House, theSanta Barbara Museum of Natural History, and the Santa Barbara Woman’s Club.
Being one of the two core districts for the early history of Santa Barbara (togetherwith the Presidio district), the area is unusually rich in historic resources and blessed with the natural beauty of Mission Creek and the oak woodland of Rocky Nook Park.
The cultural institutions and the programs through which they serve the community, the environmental and recreational opportunities of the area, the area’s residents (and their residences) and the vicinity of several public and private schools togetheraccount for a great deal of usage by pedestrians and bicyclists through the road corridor that leads from the Old Mission across Mission Bridge to Rocky Nook Park,the Museum of Natural History, and the Woman’s Club.
Yet, a narrow historic bridge, difficult intersections with Alameda Padre Serra and Mountain Drive, tight turns that impede visibility, missing or inadequate sidewalks and bicycle lanes, poor signage, and other challenges create in this corridor some ofthe most unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists in Santa Barbara.
Several attempts have been made over the past several decades to mitigate some ofthe traffic problems. Proposed solutions have failed to be adopted, in part because the corridor straddles the boundary between City and County jurisdictions, and inpart because of the difficulty of bringing concerns over traffic flow and safety,protection of historic and environmental resources, and a diversity of neighborhood interests into alignment.Concerned Citizens for Safe Passage has brought together a comprehensive group of stakeholders representing cultural and educational institutions, historic preservation interests,private land owners, and the adjoining neighborhoods of Mission Canyon and Upper East Side.
The group has compiled a careful study of existing conditions and needed improvements and hasestablished an inventory of historic and environmental resources that require protection. The grouphas also contacted both staff and elected officials from both City and County and receivedindications of interest in cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries.
While no detailed plan for specific improvements has been proposed yet, the group is intent onaccomplishing several ambitious and interrelated goals. These include, first and foremost,improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists moving through the corridor, among them many K-12 students as well as young families with children; protection of, and greatly improved access tothe rich historic resources of the area; lowering the volume of vehicular traffic by providing a safe and enjoyable pedestrian alternative; and esthetic enhancements of a beautiful but neglected area.
Mission Canyon Road is the major artery for evacuation of the Mission Canyon neighborhood in case of emergency (fire or earthquake). The improvements sought by Concerned Citizens for Safe Passage would separate pedestrians and bicycles from the vehicular traffic stream and, thus, also significantly improve evacuation conditions.
As a further benefit, the improvements sought by Safe Passage would also benefit visitors to theSanta Barbara Mission. The Mission is a world class cultural and historical resource that attracts a large number of local, national, and international visitors annually. It is hoped that the envisionedchanges would not only improve access to the Mission but also its visual surroundings.
The full report issued by the Safe Passage group is available here. Readers are encouraged to obtain a copy of the report and to provide feedback both to the group and to elected officials of their respective jurisdictions.