In addition to the reasons often mentioned to explain the extraordinary commercial vacancy rate downtown (Internet shopping, high store rents, the return of high consumer debt levels, Generation X’s tight finances that prevent them from keeping up the shopping levels of the formerly big-spending Boomers), a few other issues might be considered:
(1) Santa Barbara is a tourist town just beginning to feel the bite of the escalating Trump Travel Slump caused by unwelcoming border and airport policies that annoy both foreigners and other Americans. People who used to love traveling to the California Riviera may now be thinking twice about it. Besides getting rid of the America First crowd, what can we do to convince tourists they’re still welcome in the U.S.?
(2) We also might want to get our creative minds around the fact that there may be opportunity in the crisis. Santa Barbara has way too much unwanted retail space and a desperate shortage of living space — is anyone considering converting one to the other?