The Santa Barbara chapter of AIA (American Institute of Architects) is writing this letter in response to the Independent article “Santa Barbara’s Parklet-Palooza Rocks On” to set the record straight.
Over the past few years, our organization has sponsored large, collaborative, local-volunteer efforts to assist with envisioning the future of downtown Santa Barbara. AIASB enthusiastically supports the outdoor dining that the downtown parklets provide, the promenade, and the lifeline that these have provided to our local businesses during this difficult time.
Our organization did not seek out involvement in the City’s rethinking of parklet guidelines. In December 2020, members of the City Council petitioned AIASB’s advocacy committee to help City staff review existing parklets, enclosures, and parklet guidelines for health, safety, accessibility, and conformance with aesthetic standards in the downtown historic district.
AIASB volunteers responded with suggestions for simple and cost-effective ideas, focusing on supporting the businesses, the City’s process, and responding to staff concerns.
Recommendations included no timelines, expecting that any changes to the existing design standards would be a lengthy process requiring input from community leaders, decision makers, the business community and local stakeholders.
As stated at last week’s Council meeting, AIASB firmly believes that the City should allow maximum flexibility in accommodating existing parklets in the public right of way, and that businesses should be included in conversations about City policies that affect them and downtown.
The Santa Barbara chapter of the AIA has a long history of collaborating with City decision makers, our local community, and City staff. Our members generously volunteer their skills, knowledge, and time toward the goal of achieving a sustainable, livable, beautiful, and resilient community.
Tai Yeh, AIA, is president of AIA Santa Barbara.
Editor’s Note: During the presentation to City Council, staff said they’d “received a lot of input and feedback from the architecture community who are concerned with the appearance of the parklets and State Street.”