On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council, at long last, unanimously recognized the necessity for a vital improvement to our city’s infrastructure: City Council has committed itself to constructing pathways on either side of the Mission Canyon bridge.

The council recognized that even able-bodied pedestrians can become intimidated trying to negotiate the popular but treacherous route leading from the Old Mission along Los Olivos north to the Puesta del Sol intersection. The council admitted that for the estimated 19 percent of the population with mobility or vision disabilities, there is not even unsafe access, in direct defiance of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To rectify these problems, the council has instructed staff to return in autumn to present a process to effect the needed infrastructure improvements.

Staff had recommended to the council ways to incorporate access changes into a sensitive and CEQA-acceptable reconstruction of the current Mission Canyon Bridge. This would not only have addressed problems that now result in the bridge being rated by CalTrans as “functionally obsolete,” but it would have helped provide the funds that the city now must seek elsewhere. It is disappointing but not surprising that the council would choose to abjure a braver and more responsible decision, especially during an election year and especially when voices misrepresenting the issues at hand have been so loud and relentless.

Nonetheless, as a member of Concerned Citizens for a Safe Passage since 2013, and as a board member of the Mission Heritage Trail Association, the nonprofit that evolved from the grass-roots Safe Passage group, I am encouraged. During brain-storming sessions in our first several years, our entirely volunteer group developed creative, workable, environmentally sensitive, and beautiful ways to achieve new pedestrian access. We invited the public to workshops to help us along the way. I am heartened now to know that City Council has committed to making these, or similar, ideas come to fruition.

Infrastructure projects, of course, cost money. That is why it is a shame to have relinquished the CalTrans grant. Will the new infrastructure bill on the verge of congressional passage help provide the city with the necessary funds? Now is the time to bring this safe passage project to the attention of Rep. Salud Carbajal.


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