A lot of people have asked for an update on the efforts of the World Business Academy Santa Barbara Retail Task Force. We have gotten off to a fantastic start.
In August, a diverse group of more than 100 civic leaders, business owners, economic analysts, residents, store owners, planners, restaurant owners, developers and community members joined me and the World Business Academy in submitting a list of recommendations for ways to revitalize and improve downtown Santa Barbara and State Street, to our mayor and City Council. Our ideas included, among others:
• Outlining the need for a comprehensive, up-to-date Economic Development Plan for Santa Barbara;
• Finding ways to cut the length of time it takes to get projects permitted to help address the vacancy issue on State Street;
• Looking at ways to bring the fun back to downtown, including reviewing regulations on temporary street closures, food trucks, special events, and live music;
• Increasing police presence where needed;
• Addressing issues of lighting and overall street appeal;
• Allocating more funds to mental-health services and beds for the homeless.
We felt that by pulling ideas together from a diverse array of stakeholders downtown we could help the city in its efforts to prioritize the best way to revitalize our core business district. In response to the August City Council meeting, I, along with many others, have been involved in a series of positive, productive meetings with city officials. In response, George Buell, Community Development director, established a new working group on Downtown Economic Vitality to review items on the list. The goal is to discuss and review each of these suggestions, then make them to the City Council for consideration.