State Street | Credit: Courtesy

The future of State Street will be decided out in the open, as the Santa Barbara City Council decided Tuesday to conduct hearings about the promenade each month during regular council meetings. The decision was unexpected but unanimous, and it seemed that the council had finally found a comfortable path down what Mayor Randy Rowse called “a long and contentious road.”

The idea heading into Tuesday’s meeting was to create a more transparent committee in an attempt to get the ball rolling on reshaping State Street. Technically, the current “State Street Interim Operations Ad Hoc Council Committee” with just three councilmembers would be replaced by the more formal “State Street Pilot Programs Committee.” 

But several councilmembers argued the goal of holding more transparent meetings to allow for public input could — and should — be done much more simply, by just doing away with the subcommittee idea altogether and bringing the business in front of the full council during its regular meetings.

Councilmember Meagan Harmon pointed out that the only selling points of the subcommittee would be that it was theoretically faster and more financially efficient to have specific issues decided by a small group than brought back to the council for approval. To expand the committee and give it the full Brown Act treatment would defeat the purpose, making it more costly, when it could just be done on council time.

It was unplanned, but almost in unison all six councilmembers and Mayor Rowse agreed that the same process could be taken to full council, in what was a rare moment of council agreement during the normally contentious discussions regarding the State Street promenade.

Rowse said he was “pleased with the flexibility” that the council showed, and that the city could “move forward and have these discussions as a body out in the open.”

The council voted unanimously to agendize an item each month to allow the council to discuss and take action on the interim plans for the State Street promenade, and to officially disband the State Street Interim Operations Ad Hoc Council Committee.

The same day, the three members of the subcommittee — Kristen Sneddon, Mike Jordan, and Oscar Gutierrez — filed a memo requesting that the city council also agendize an item regarding several recommendations based on the work of the committee up until now. The memo includes specific actions that could be taken in the meantime with City Council approval.

These recommendations include: a deep cleaning of the State Street Master Plan Project Area; at least two blocks designated as pedestrian-only; reducing the speed limit in the State Street area to 15mph; allowing the Historic Landmarks Committee to provide input on design for the interim; and allowing one-way drop offs in front of The Granada Theatre on days with shows.

These actions are all in council jurisdiction and could be done “now to ensure the safety, aesthetics, and accessibility of the State Street Master Plan Project Area for all community members,” the memo read. 


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