Commission Begins Deciding Fate of State Street Promenade

The Length, Look, and Cost of the New Pedestrian Walkway under Discussion

A parklet on the 500 block of State Street. | Credit: Erick Madrid

The 17 movers and shakers assigned to determine the warp and woof of State Street for decades to come met for the first time last week. Dave Davis was elected chairperson. Davis currently sits on the MTD board of directors and on the city’s water commission. Before that, he was chief executive for Community Environmental Council. Before that, he was head of the city’s Community Development Department, playing a significant role in the development of the Paseo Nuevo Mall and affordable housing.

The vice chair is Ken Saxon, known for his skill facilitating gatherings of loud and opinionated people. Given the makeup of the members of this commission — three representing downtown business interests, three from the council, one planning commissioner, one a member of the Historic Landmarks Commission, and the rest citizens at large — Saxon, who runs the Leading from Within academy, could have his hands full. The group’s charge is to figure out whether State Street’s pedestrian promenade — concocted in response to the COVID crisis — should remain, and if so, with what changes. Should the 400 block of State Street be included? What about the 1100 block? Should bikes be allowed? What kind of Santa Barbara order should be imposed on the mass outcropping of parklets that have commandeered State Street? And where will all that money — tens of millions — come from?

In recent months, access advocates have complained there’s not enough space on sidewalks to accommodate people in wheelchairs. Jacob Lesner-Buxton, an outspoken advocate for greater access, noted, “I’ve been called a retard six times since June.” Before Tuesday’s meeting, councilmember Mike Jordan, however, worried that the purpose was to create sidewalk space for people in wheelchairs, not to require merchants to adhere to design guidelines for street furniture crafted 40 years ago.

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