The 15-member State Street Advisory Committee (SSAC) is raring to go and shape the future of Santa Barbara’s downtown, chair Dave Davis told the City Council this Tuesday in an update on the new group’s efforts. “The team is a committee of horses ready to run,” he said. “It’s hard to hold them back and not let them get too far ahead of themselves.”
The SSAC has met three times thus far, the council heard from city staff, first to hammer out their guiding objectives — mainly to reimagine and create a clean and exciting downtown space; bolster the business community and attract both tourists and locals to State Street retail; and take a more holistic approach to evaluating transportation, housing, office space, homelessness, and the COVID-19 pandemic response along the commercial corridor.
More recently, the committee studied 10 promenade master plans from communities around the world, and, based on those examples, expressed an interest in “using a cohesive design vocabulary, providing civic anchors, creating sidewalk uniformity, and designing an environment with unobstructed storefront views,” staff said. The members also commented that the State Street Master Plan should emphasize a safe and inviting pedestrian experience, include a 24-hour district, and be grounded in the uniqueness of the city.
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While Davis thanked staff for their support through the early process, he resisted suggestions by the council that the committee start digging into smaller details of the promenade, including parklet design, parade routes, and specific block closures. Those decisions will come in time, Davis said, but right now the committee is concentrating on the bigger themes.
“We can get bogged down in parklet design and umbrella colors, but if we go that direction, we’re going to lose focus on the big picture,” he said. Theirs is a major effort for the future of the economic vitality of the center of Santa Barbara, he explained. “We need to be focused, focused, focused to make sure we get that done.”
The committee will meet again this January and present their continuing progress to the council soon after. Staff provided an admittedly ambitious deadline to complete the State Street Master Plan by the end of 2023.