Improving State Street

I appreciate Nick Welsh’s recent articles about challenges affecting downtown Santa Barbara. I have lived here for 27 years and have always been a regular visitor to downtown. Now that I live in an adjacent neighborhood, I go to State Street about four times a week.

I visit favorite cafés, shops, the library, the art museum, etc., and I also like to walk the length of State Street from Haley to Arrellaga for exercise (it’s a gentle uphill climb). Therefore, given my familiarity with the area, I would like to offer a few remarks.

First, I was pleased to read that the consultants recognize that State Street has the “bones and scale” of a good downtown. My many years of living and traveling on the East Coast and then in California make me very aware that the stretch of historic downtown Santa Barbara is an exceptionally lovely and easily accessible pedestrian street. (My thanks go to the city leaders since 1925, the landscapers, and the early morning sidewalk cleanup crew.)

Second, I wish to respond to three particular points in the article:

  1. The Realtors/business owners with vacant establishments should be required to place attractive signs/posters in the shop windows; I hope that the City Council would be firm about this requirement. The high school art departments could provide these, or the Santa Barbara Art Association. This proposal should not be problematic.
  2. There was mention of too many benches, and I have to agree that this is an issue worthy of consideration. There are a lot of benches (as well as walls for sitting) especially between Ortega and Anapamu streets. Some benches are in clusters, and that especially encourages groups to gather and to remain for extended periods. And, yes, many of these groups are apparently homeless, as evidenced by their belongings, which are placed on and around the benches.
  3. Although I have never been harassed by a homeless person, and I like to say that we have learned to coexist, I am aware that a significant number of residents do not hold that same view. Thus, I support the idea of having police officers in evidence who are knowledgeable about addressing the issues of a homeless population in a small city. I also like the suggestion of training “citizen ambassadors” who can create positive interactions with pedestrians. I would be willing to assist with that effort.

I hope that all who care about downtown Santa Barbara can work together to improve our already wonderful city. Many big decisions have been made over the decades when city leaders and residents have been motivated by their visions for an ever better Santa Barbara and have made them a reality.

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