On May 21, the Santa Barbara City Council will make a final decision on whether or not to accept ownership of State Route 225 (Cliff Drive and Las Positas Road) from Caltrans. The community effort to gain local control of this important city and neighborhood artery was begun over 15 years ago, when concerns rose over speeding, numerous accidents, and pedestrian safety. At that time, Caltrans was not interested in responding to requests to take into account neighborhood needs.
The effort gained momentum again in 2008, when the Mesa Architects and other local activists began working to bring the safety issues before the Mesa Neighborhood, city government, and Caltrans. This resulted in a Caltrans agreement to re-stripe the eastern portion of Cliff Drive into a five-lane configuration consisting of a center turn lane, two driving lanes. and two bike lanes. That change has been in effect since August, 2011, and has met with widespread approval, generally slower vehicle speeds, and increased bicycle use – all without causing the traffic congestion that was feared by some.
At that time, the City Council also voted to move forward on the transfer of ownership, an 18-month process that had to include street condition analysis, maintenance projects, state funding, and legislative action. City ownership is vital to providing opportunities to install pedestrian crosswalks, additional traffic control, and bicycle lanes. The transfer process is almost complete, and the Council must now make its final decision to take control of the two streets. Caltrans has already budgeted funds for the transfer, but this money will be lost, and all of the community work to achieve local control will be wasted, if the Council does not accept ownership by the May 21 deadline.
The Council could bend to pressure over current budget concerns and citywide street maintenance issues. Or they could choose to rank safety and livability as primary, and work with the community to develop cost-effective ways to make these neighborhood assets into complete streets that provide for all modes of transportation and all of our citizens. If they vote not to accept the transfer, the community will lose that opportunity. Caltrans will not make further changes. It is vitally important for all those that support city control of our streets to let our councilmembers know by letter, phone call, or email that they must approve this transfer. Please give the council a reason to say “yes.”