De la Guerra Plaza Needs Saving

Claims Made by 'Save De la Guerra Plaza' Are Wrong

De la Guerra Plaza | Credit: City of Santa Barbara

The claims published in the “Save De la Guerra Plaza” ad taken out in the October 7 Independent are not only absurd, but factually incorrect.

They write that there will be a “loss of all lawn area.” Have any of the authors been to the plaza recently? All the grass is dead and there are patches of dirt. This is because we live in a dry climate and are in a years-long drought. The city has been discouraging homeowners from wasting water on lawns as Lake Cachuma diminishes every day. We should not promote lawns right in front of the City Hall. Either way, the “lawn” has already been lost.

They also write that “it would no longer be possible to hold Fiesta Mercado [or host] speakers and political rallies and events [the plaza].” Again, this is completely untrue. The new plan calls for a resurfacing of the plaza that will bring all the ground up to the same level (rather than having the parking and road areas lower than the center grass and sidewalks). This, if anything, will make it easier to hold events in the plaza, and not worry about curbs and accessibility. Additionally, the plan calls for the planting of shade trees across the space, which will make it more pleasant to attend any event in the plaza.

Finally, they write that there will be a “loss of historic character.” What “historic character?” Are they referring to the depressing, shadeless grass patch surrounded by crowded parking that is empty at almost all times of the day, nay, the year except for a brief week in August when the grass is trampled to dust under the feet of thousands of Fiesta goers (and takes months to grow back)?

The problem with people who think this way is that they are afraid of change. As a resident of the area, I walk past Plaza De la Guerra on a weekly basis, and it is almost always devoid of life. I’d like to ask the people who wrote the ad supporting the status quo: Have you ever really spent time in the plaza? How many of you, I wonder, go downtown and spend more than five minutes in the plaza, or even think of it as a destination of its own?

They probably don’t — for good reason. There is nothing in that space that is attractive or interesting in any way. The back of a bunch of businesses face it, as well as the lifeless facade of the News-Press building. The plaza itself is sunny and has no seating. This should change.

While the present design is not perfect, their guiding principles listed on slide 6 are right on target. We need good reasons for people to go to the plaza and spend time there, safe from cars, and pleasant in the shade.

Please don’t take the comments of a handful of angry “not-in-my-backyarders” sway you to think that most Santa Barbarians think this way. Everyone I know, at least, would love to see some changes to the plaza. Some people are just always afraid of change, even if that change is for the best.

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