The goal is simple: revamp Hollister Avenue to help boost business and curb appeal. But the process, as seen at Tuesday night’s Goleta City Council meeting, has some definite pot holes. For instance, the original proposed improvements — four lanes for cars, class II bike lanes, landscaped center medians, center turn lanes, 15- to 20-foot wide sidewalks, and on-street parking — was 28 feet short of reality, coming in at 118 total feet wide in an area that currently only offers 90 feet of space.
The hearing was led by the city’s public works director, Steve Wagner, who presented the Hollister Avenue Redesign Project to the council and highlighted what his staff has deemed to be the three most plausible alternatives to the plan: the two lane alternative, the four lane reduced parking alternative, and the four lane reduced center turn lane alternative.
The two lane alternative frees up the most space (approximately 22 feet) and would take out one travel lane from Kellogg to Fairview Avenue. This plan allows for parking on both sides of the street as well as bike lanes, and keeps the center turn lane. The only problem with this alternative is traffic. Less lanes will obviously mean longer traffic lines for commuters and Old Town customers alike. Also the traffic that is diverted from Hollister will further back up other routes. Furthermore, the alternative will see a rise in greenhouse gas emissions since Hollister now sees an ADT (Average Daily Trips) of 1430 vehicles. The longer they are stalled in traffic the more carbon dioxide being funneled into Old Town.
The other two alternatives allow for less space and each will require additional studies to determine their worth. The four lane alternative would eliminate 27 parking spaces in order to make room for the bike lanes, a potential disadvantage for businesses along that corridor. The four lane reduced center turn lane alternative would remove all center turn lanes except at three locations, which would lose parking instead. The plan is a compromise between heavy traffic volumes and impacted parking, but could lead to more collisions and inconveniences as drivers attempt to maneuver without a turn lane. Each plan has its pros and cons, but which one will win out remains a big unknown.
The public took to the podium for nearly three hours to voice their opinion of the proposed changes. Business owners, cyclists, and residents clashed over parking, bike lane safety, and curb side ambience. Phil Unander, owner of an auto parts store on Hollister, argued for the fourth Old Town alternative that council seemed to have forgotten about: “Leave it alone.” He presented a petition of 1,168 signatures from people opposed to the Revitalization Plan, because of the potential reduced parking.
Bicyclists, however, insisted that new class II bike lanes were a necessity to the community, reminding council of the three tragic cyclist related deaths already this year, and argued for a “road diet” on Hollister that would no longer put them at the mercy of drivers. Still others have dreams of one day being able to sit at an outdoor cafe on Hollister, without hearing the blare of four lanes of traffic.
Regardless of the differing agendas, there is currently no recognizable funding for any projects within the Revitalization Plan. But Tuesday’s meeting was the first chance for the public to see the alternatives and provide input on the discussion. As one councilmember put it, “Without a solid plan to look to in the future, this will just become a recycled issue.” The meeting ended with a vote for Wagner and his staff to come back with cost estimates for studying further alternatives.