To Park or Not to Park, That Is the Congestion

Free Parking Stays in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

Scarce parking in the funk zone. | Credit: Paul Wellman

Funk Zone lovers of free parking can rest easy for the time being; the City Council opted not to impose paid parking in three blocks of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone where drinking and dining are intensely curated experiences. Funk Zone property owners had hoped for paid parking as a way to encourage more parking turnover for new customers. Instead the council will consider other options, including removing illegal “no parking” signs installed by some property owners for personal use, having the downtown shuttle turn into the Zone, and designating spots for Uber and Lyft passengers. Some councilmembers argued that the public parking lot at Garden and Cabrillo, now a lightly used paid lot, should offer 75 minutes of free parking.

Anna Marie Gott, a vocal council critic and watchdog, also resurrected her charges that the Hotel Californian has been using 83 public spaces on the upper tiers of the Mason and Helena Street lot for private valet use. She said she was denied access to it last summer. Though City Hall investigated the claim seven times, her charges were concluded to be without merit. Since then, however, Planning Commissioner Sheila Lodge and Councilmember Kristen Sneddon both have reported trouble getting into the Californian’s public spaces. City traffic planner Rob Dayton said that city staff had seen those spaces cordoned off. 

Scarce parking in the funk zone.

Warren Nocon, general manager of the hotel, acknowledged their parking system has experienced hiccups, but he denied cannibalizing spaces set aside for the public on behalf of hotel guests. “I’m here to dispel the notion that we are rigging the system or gaming the city,” he stated. He explained that the hotel leased space to seven bars and restaurants whose owners would be furious, he said, if their parking spaces were hijacked for hotel valet parking. He did say the Hotel Californian’s five-star status required parking spaces to be occasionally scrubbed. Nocon had not spoken with Anna Marie Gott, but he’d tried. “She’s a hard person to get ahold of,” he said.


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