Without being involved in the discussion and yet as a frequent patron of the 700, 600 and 500 blocks of the promenade, I advocate to restore State Street with vehicle traffic.

This will force all forms of transportation to obey traffic laws, keep pedestrians on the sidewalk, improve retail shopping, and increase parking garage revenue significantly.

Currently, kids who ride e-bikes or regular bikes have free rein to do whatever they want throughout the promenade. The wide open areas entice kids to be reckless and disruptive with no enforcement to deter their behavior. Restoring State Street will reduce their riding space. It will force all riders to share the road with vehicle traffic. Enforcement and obeying laws are the answers to this problem.

By definition, pedestrians use sidewalks and do not share the street with motorized bicycles or other riding devices. The current mix between pedestrians, joggers, rapidly moving bikes, and other devices is safe only when shops and restaurants are closed along the promenade. But during peak times, holidays, and special events, this mix is chaotic and unwelcoming to visitors.

The parklets were a good stop-gap solution during COVID. But they only exasperated the struggle and ability for retail shops to recover from the pandemic.

In fact, I would say anecdotally, the parklets and the promenade have stymied Santa Barbara’s ability to  jump-start retail shopping. Even though we want to blame it all on Amazon. Santa Bárbara is different, and we should be able to support and revitalize retail shopping downtown.

Since no traffic laws apply on the promenade and pedestrians pose a safety risk, let’s do Santa Bárbara a favor and restore vehicle traffic in the heart of downtown. A permanent removal of vehicle traffic is an amputation of our local charm and culture. People who have recently called Santa Bárbara home do not share the history of those who have lived here for generations. Let’s honor our past and stop the trend of trying to reinvent paradise. Santa Barbara is only as good as its downtown, and today and right now, it sucks.

Mark Alvarado spent a bulk of his childhood on State Street, where his father managed and owned three furniture stores on the 700 block of State Street from 1967 to 1981. He remembers the vibrancy of downtown from those days, and also from when he went on to work at numerous bars and nightclubs in the ’80s and ’90s as a professional musician.


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