Random, an eclectic store near the Granada, is closing. I spoke to the owner, who said that the building is being sold and a new lease is not available. In general, landlords prefer national tenants.
State Street has a gaunt, tired feel which compares poorly with the vibrant feel of downtown Ventura or San Luis Obispo. The prevalence of chain stores make it little different from any mall.
Do you remember Boon Mee, the store with the curved archway that sold tasteful Asian imports? It closed a dozen-odd years ago because of a rent increase, and has remained vacant ever since. How can a landlord afford to lose rent for 12 years? I can think of only one reason: that there are very few landlords, and it is more profitable to maintain high rents on the stores that can afford it than to reduce rents to full occupancy levels. Perhaps they are living in a pre-Amazon fantasy world.
I do not know what powers are available to the city to mitigate this problem: A vacancy tax? Caps on the percentage of national stores? A subsidy for local businesses? I do know that the free market is failing to provide the retail environment that the citizens of Santa Barbara deserve.