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URBAN HIKE

Practical Pedestrian Pathways
updated: Sep 08, 2012, 10:00 AM

By The Urban Hikers (Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright)

During our "walk every street in the city" project we passed by and utilized many of our town's unique pedestrian-only shortcuts. While we have always appreciated some of these public easements, we knew nothing or little about many others, making them unimportant to us. Post "hike project", we have different attitudes about the practical pedestrian pathways throughout our city limits...we love ‘em all!

Perhaps some of the best known and well loved pedestrian pathways in town are those created in the early 1900's when the Riviera Tract was developed by "the father of the Riviera", George Batchelder. They are the result of several separate public easements, donated to the City by the principals of the Riviera Company, to enable residents and visitors in the neighborhood quick and easy access from that part of the Riviera into town and back. The pathways, located adjacent to, and near what is now Francheschi Park bisect several city blocks and lead toward APS. They were exquisitely designed and crafted, many by the Italian stone masons brought to Santa barbara by Mr. Batchelder to work on construction of his development projects. If you haven't already taken an urban hike along these magnificent little pathways, this weekend would be the perfect time to get out and investigate them.

Many of the public easement pathways from the Riviera intersect APS, where some end, but others continue. The easements aren't always easy to spot, but they are worth finding if you traverse this part of Santa Barbara with any regularity...or if you just happen to be out exploring.

This perspective shows a pedestrian pathway from both sides of the street as it intersects APS.

Many of the little pathways are nearly impossible to spot, with no indication from the roadway that they are public, or that they lead to anyplace in particular - but they are and they do! The last of these photos shows an entrance heading up the Rivera, next to 1418 APS. It's so overgrown, that even knowing it was there, it was a challenge to locate, but once past the overhanging foliage it is a very useable and welcoming little shortcut. Sadly, we suspect there are many public easements in the city that we overlooked as we passed by, as a result of a lack of use and upkeep. Perhaps someone could spearhead an effort to "Save the Public Easements."

Santa Barbarans love their beaches and public access to them is a necessity. There are certainly more than three public pathways to our many beaches, but these are three of our favorite unique and practical passages: the Coast Village underpass (shown from Coast Village Road and the other end at Buttery Lane), 1,000 Steps and Mesa Lane. Ironically, at 150 steps, 1000-Steps (at the end of Santa Cruz) has fewer steps than does Mesa Lane (at 241).

There are also several City schools with pedestrian pathways leading to and from campus. Cleveland School appears to be the only school with a properly named city street, or at least an official sign. We also appreciate this path for the beautiful city view students are rewarded with as they wander away from the classroom bound for more recreational pursuits.

McKinley School also has a very handy pathway to and from campus with a fantastic city view. Located at the westerly end of Coronel Place, there are actually two footpaths - the one with the ROAD CLOSED sign leads up the hill to the school, and the other leads to Ladera Ln., which is the street just below SB City College. Both of these public easements are well traveled and provide good short cuts for pedestrians.

There is another pedestrian easement, most likely intended for school children that appears to be "private" on one end and public on the other. Located on Vista Del Campo, the footpath is a shortcut from La Cumbre Jr. High to Hacienda Drive, which is located near the intersection of Las Positas and Modoc. Given their PRIVATE PROPERTY signs it seems like at least some of the people on Vista Del Campo would prefer to keep the access private, but we're not completely convinced that's the right thing to do.

No piece on city pedestrian pathways would be complete without mention of the footbridges many pedestrians and cyclists use to get from point A to point B in a hurry. There are several that cross the 101, and we'll show you the one at Ortega Street. There is also an amazing bridge that connects one part of the Mesa to another - we aren't sure if this bridge has a name, but we love walking on it. One side of the bridge is at La Mesa Park, and the other end is in the residential area toward Hendry's Beach. The views are simply amazing from this little bridge.

There are several really interesting public easements within the city limits that we're are certain few know about or use, because they seem to be hidden in plain sight. One of those little pathways has probably been in use for over a century, and has probably been used by countless Roosevelt School children on their way to and from campus. The path leads from E. Padre Street to the Rose Garden and is pure magic in our minds.

East Pedregosa Street below APS, has a series of stone staircases that serve as shortcuts from up near Loma Street down to Grand. The stairs stop at at the roadways and resume again on the other side of the street, and are a quick and easy way to get from the Riviera to what used to be Saint Francis Hospital. These images show the easements from both directions.

This article is by no means covers all of the wonderful public footpaths, trails, foot bridges, stairways, shortcuts and other easements intended for use by hikers, bikers and others in our city limits. We found an amazing variety of practical pathways throughout the city, including those on Meigs Road, Carrillo Street, APS, La Combadura and San Roque. We also found "secret pathways" near Eling's Park, the Natural History Museum, Hale Park and many more places. We even walked an almost-forgotten little path, located above the County Bowl that many SBHS students used to use on their way to and from school back in the 50's, 60's and 70's...We're wondering if it's possibly a public easement and a part of "Pink Beard's" legacy, since it was George Batchelder himself who donated that land to the City for construction of the County Bowl.

Lastly, our final two images show a public pedestrian easement that was just a twinkle in some city planner's eye. City records show that at a June 2011 City Council Meeting the Engineering Division and Public Works put forth a recommendation for "Summary Vacation Of An Undeveloped Excess Pedestrian Easement Located Between 1615 And 1621 Grand Avenue". According to the report before the Mayor and City Council, on September 14th the year prior, the City Council approved a final map that included the Council's acceptance of a public pedestrian access easement. But after closer review it was determined that the "Pedestrian Easement was inadvertently and erroneously shown on the Final Map because the City did not require such easement on Lots 1 and 2 as part of the project approval (Council Resolution No. 06-103)". The report goes on to say, "The Pedestrian Easement is not feasible for construction of a fully accessible public walkway due to its steep topography. It would not provide reasonable access to other public areas, and no walkway or public utilities are located within the Pedestrian Easement. Therefore, the owners have applied for its summary vacation by the City. The Pedestrian Easement depicted on Attachment 3 is considered "excess" to the City's needs and may be summarily vacated". These images show the site of the aborted pedestrian pathway.

We're inclined to disagree with the statement that the easement is "excess to the City's needs", because frankly we think the City needs these pedestrian easements just as much as it needs subsidized employee housing for hospital workers. We also wonder if the location truly is "not feasible for construction of a fully accessible public walkway due to its steep topography". From what we can see it looks like it would have been a lovely site for another Riviera pathway.

As always, we encourage you to go out into the community and take an urban hike, keeping your eyes and minds open to the environment around you.

 

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