As a lifelong resident of Santa Barbara, I’ve seen major changes on State Street when economic conditions and shopping preferences necessitated the elimination of parking and construction of the pedestrian-friendly, wide sidewalks, the construction of Paseo Nuevo, and the many empty storefronts during the economic downturn of the 2006-2009 recession.
Right now State Street needs help. So many storefronts and restaurants are closed up again, it gives the City a down-at-the-heels impression. Tourism is down and high end real estate prices are down — both indicators that Santa Barbara is losing its edge.
An economic revival of the downtown area is critical to the future of the city. These downtown vacancies are different than the previous economic downturn. These vacancies are primarily caused by the retail market being irrevocably changed by internet shopping. These storefronts are not coming back in their old form. This problem is not going to turn around by itself.
Changing times need vision and courage and commitment to find solutions, which Angel Martinez, with his retail expertise, will provide — solutions such as multi-purposing the buildings, encouraging and enabling new businesses that may need less square footage than current retail spaces offer, encouraging residential use of vacant commercial space, and enabling new small businesses to get started without crushing permitting costs.
I think we all want a vibrant, fun downtown area, and having one financially benefits every one of us indirectly. Angel Martinez is the candidate who can keep the city alive. Vote for him!