Thank you so much for your honest coverage of what’s happening. I’m not local, but I love Santa Barbara and graduated from Westmont College. Been visiting as a “tourist” since I was 5 years old, over 60 years, when my grandmother would take me on the train.
It’s true there are many homeless, but they’ve been in area as long as I can remember, just shift locations. They don’t really bother me or keep me off State Street.
What does make those visits less frequent is the proliferation of chain stores I can find in any mall. Why would I go to Santa Barbara to shop at any of them (though your Nordstrom’s does often carry different items)?
What made State Street a place to visit and spend time in was the local businesses, i.e., Green and Yellow Basket, Copper Coffee Pot, and others that were unique to area. Those are fewer and fewer, and, while there are many great places to eat, one can only do so much of that or wine tasting. Even cruise-ship tourists must want something more than H&M, Forever 21, and their kind.
I know the high rents have driven many long-standing businesses out (the owners have said that as they have their “going out of business sales”), especially during economic downturns. Replacing them with chains, high end or low, or giant luxury hotels will not bring back pedestrian traffic, even without the homeless. I sincerely hope that the citizens of Santa Barbara will find a way to preserve part of what makes it unique, not just the architecture.