Goleta City Council will be considering three possible ways to increase parking on Hollister Avenue in Old Town including angled parking in the center of the street. The council meeting on Tuesday evening, June 7, promises to offer a lively exchange of views.
The area of Hollister being discussed runs between the auto dealerships at Kellogg Avenue to Taco Bell at Fairview. In between lies the heart of Old Town with many locally owned shopping and eating venues including jewelry stores, a SCUBA shop, a used bookstore, Santa Cruz market, party stores, butchers and bakers, a flower stand, thrift shops, the Oriental market, insurance agents, copy shops, and the city’s community center. A wide array of restaurants include Thai, Vietnamese, and Mexican cuisines plus the original burger eatery The Habit.
Tom Modugno, who has operated the Santa Cruz Market for 45 years, said of the neighborhood: “It’s a beautiful thing. It’s America. It’s small town. It’s affordable. It’s mom ‘n’ pop, without the big chains, except maybe the auto parts store and Wendy’s.”
As for the proposed changes, Modugno, who has been the city’s informal historian, felt Old Town was being used as a guinea pig in an unproven traffic scenario, but he acknowledged some business owners were more willing to consider the changes.
In a quick call to the Oriental Market at 5863 Hollister Avenue, proprietor Tomás Hernandez said if these proposals added more parking then, “Yes, please, please, please!”
Last year the City Council requested Public Works staff to suggest ways to keep as much parking as possible, or increase parking, while reducing the total number of lanes from four to two — one in each direction — and adding bicycle lanes. The hope was to give Hollister, which was once part of the main highway through California, a more neighborly feel.
The city opted to use painted lines to designate new lanes and parking configurations, since the timeframe was long and money was short for a more complete plan that would alter curbs and add trees and landscaping.
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Hollister Avenue is a total of 72 feet wide. All three proposed designs add a five-foot-wide bicycle lane to each side of the street, with a three-foot buffer between bikes and vehicles in the travel lanes or parking spaces.
A slideshow to be presented on Tuesday will illustrate the various plans. Alternative 1 would add back-in diagonal parking on the north (mountain) side of the street and a center lane that allows turns to the right and left. It adds the potential for restaurant parklets in the parking areas and adds 25 parking spaces.
Alternative 2 proposes nose-in angled parking to the north side, and the center lane for turns. It reduces parking by 20 spaces. Both Alternatives 1 and 2 make sightlines more difficult for drivers coming out of driveways or side streets on the north side of Hollister.
The city’s staff recommends Alternative 3 because it adds the most parking. Alternative 3 places angled parking in the middle of the road in both directions. It adds 75 parking spaces and retains sightlines for cars and bicyclists.
However, once they’ve parked, drivers, passengers and pedestrians would be stranded in the middle of the road. All turn lanes would disappear, and left turns out of driveways would be restricted. This could lead to slower speeds but potentially greater pedestrian versus vehicle issues.
Phil Unander, who owns Larry’s Auto Parts, recalls when the County of Santa Barbara tried to solve this issue in the 1990s. Back then, the traffic number for the area was 24,000 daily trips. “At peak time, how is that going to work?” he wondered about the angled parking and road crossing. When the city started working on the plan about seven years ago, he took the time to count bike trips on “ride your bike to work” day. It was about 80 roundtrips, compared to about 64 on a regular day. He though the bike lanes were a solution in search of a problem because the people he talked to used the back streets to weave their way through Old Town.
Unander had grown philosophical about the issue over the years, comfortable that 99.4 percent of the people who’ve signed merchants’ petitions in the past were against trading parking for bike lanes. He planned to attend Tuesday’s meeting, he said: “I wouldn’t miss it.”