Mayor Schneider held a meeting this week with downtown merchants, commercial property owners, and brokers “to discuss the current framework and system for addressing homelessness and transient issues downtown.” Several city officials described programs, budgets, and accomplishments. The city is fortunate to have such capable and dedicated professionals.
But, the real issue downtown is its deterioration caused largely by the retail revolution: Blame Amazon (and your own shopping behavior), not the cops.
The solutions are not rocket science, but they require leadership, coordination, and the attention of the community. Some are easy: Eliminate “for lease” signs; obligate empty store front owners to maintain to high standards; fine land owners if they do not rent out properties over an extended time (the retail space to the left of the Apple Store has been empty for several years); remove the benches; establish business friendly policies to attract the UCSB startups that now go to Goleta.
But the sustainable solution is hard: Increase home ownership along the State Street corridor. People living and working downtown will draw sustainable retail.
Elections are coming in November. We should expect those running to address these issues directly with concrete programs: no avoidance with friendly non-responses.