The dark clouds of downtown retail depression and national political angst parted for a few hours September 6 when more than 300 Santa Barbarans gathered for dinner around a long line of foldout tables spanning the entire 1200 block of State Street. It was a true mixing pot of people and food, as young families munched Rusty’s pizza alongside retirees dining on homemade entrees. The Our Common Table event, hosted by the Lois & Walter Capps Project, followed a similarly successful bread breaking in Montecito earlier this summer.
The motto for the dinnertime get-togethers, explained Todd Capps, son of former congressmember and fellow organizer Lois Capps, is “no program, no speeches, no politics.” They simply “build a container” and “let the community fill it in the way they want to,” he said. “There’s a lot of frustration with how polarized and divided we are. This is just a simple reminder that we actually have a lot in common.” It was also a chance to enliven a block of State Street suffering from the record vacancies afflicting the entire commercial corridor. Capps said there was significant worry homeless people would crash the event. “We had zero problems,” he said. “They’re part of the community too unless we choose to ignore that reality.”
Looking ahead, Capps said, he’d like to help host other Common Tables on the city’s Westside, along Milpas Street, and in Isla Vista.