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Major Changes for Bohnett Park, Mission Canyon Bridge?

Two Big Proposals Are Working Through City Hall

Concerned Citizens walking tour
Paul Wellman

The Architectural Board of Review just approved plans to give Bohnett Park, located on the city’s densely populated Westside, a million-dollar face-lift; the key question now remains where that money will come from.

Bohnett Park has been an ever-evolving work in progress almost since its inception in 1940, but in recent years, the relentless beating taken by its makeshift soccer field has far surpassed City Hall’s ability to maintain the fields in a usable condition. Even so, a private consultant concluded that artificial turf is not the solution after hosting a public meeting on the park’s future earlier this year. There, residents were emphatic they wanted more picnic tables and spaces for barbecues instead.

According to preliminary new plans, two areas will be set aside for picnic tables, the largest increasing in size from nine tables to 16. The basketball court will double in size and a new concrete “field” will be added for five-on-a-side soccer games known as “futsal.” In addition, residents said they wanted more lighting for security purposes and better access. City Parks has applied for $350,000 from Community Development Block Grant funds; where the rest of the funding might come from remains a subject of speculation. Bohnett Park is the only park serving the city’s lower west and Westside neighborhoods, where population densities are high and family incomes are low.

Meanwhile, an expensive and controversial plan to expand the historic Mission Creek Bridge in Mission Canyon survived at the City of Santa Barbara’s Planning Commission last week despite efforts to deep-six the project. The bridge-widening proposal ​— ​which will cost $10.5 million and has vocal partisans both for and against it ​— ​was before the planning commission as one ingredient of many in the city’s multimillion-dollar capital-improvement project.

Opponents ​— ​who include Lanny Ebenstein, Pauline Conn, and former county supervisor Frank Frost ​— ​showed up to lambaste the project as an assault on the existing stone bridge, not to mention a solution in search of a problem. Supporters of the project ​— ​who include architect Fred Sweeney and former city planner Don Olsen ​— ​showed up in force as well, arguing that the bridge widening was necessary in case of emergencies and that the existing bridge needs to be seismically reinforced.

Planning commissioners declined to get sucked into the specifics of what has emerged as a complicated and divisive debate, but they ruled that the expansion project is consistent with the city’s general plan. At this stage, $1.7 million in federal highway money has been set aside to fund a feasibility study of the proposal; City Hall has contributed an additional $100,000.

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