We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge title=
Mission Creek Bridge in 1912 (courtesy photo)
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By Rosanne Crawford

The recent edhat article, Santa Barbara has been named in the 30 most charming small cities in the United States by TravelMag, reminds us how fortunate we are to live in such a special place. They describe, "Many cities in California feel pretty intense, sprawling for endless miles of roads and concrete. Santa Barbara is a very different place indeed, never really losing the laidback Hispanic charm that defined its early years as a Spanish settlement. The Old Mission, built in 1786, sits right beside the Museum of Natural History."

We are also fortunate to have a Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) that values and carefully watches over our historic landmarks and resources so Santa Barbara remains special! 

Just last week on June 9th in a five-hour webinar meeting, the HLC evaluated the Public Works Bridge Team's recommendations for changes to the historic area in our Mission Canyon Corridor, a stone's throw from the Old Mission on one side and the Natural History Museum on the other. After all the "what ifs" were weighed against "what is" many of the concerns were based on perception and hypothetical modeling.   

The HLC's feedback to the Bridge Study team was to make no changes to the bridge or roadway.

The commission basically echoed the position of the Coalition to Preserve Mission Canyon who want no changes to the Bridge and roadway. There is an open petition on MoveOn.org.

We want no changes to the Historic Mission Creek Bridge or roadway over Mission Creek. The Mission Creek Bridge, built in 1891, is a City of Santa Barbara Historic Landmark and is eligible for the National Historic Registry. We don't agree with any of the changes the Bridge Studies Team is proposing. All would compromise the historic bridge and charm of the Mission Canyon Corridor and are unwarranted. The bridge inspection completed on 3/15/ 21 only showed a work recommendation for scour maintenance which was referenced back in 2015.  Its deficiency rating is not a safety issue, the rating is due to its design classification as structurally obsolete, they don’t make them this way any more, the craftsmanship of 130 years ago is too expensive to duplicate.

Most importantly, there is no recommendation to replace this bridge, only to maintain it. We must protect the sensitive natural environment of Mission Creek, the Oak and Sycamore trees and historic walls and features that all contribute to the unique charming character of the Mission Canyon Corridor and Cultural Landscape.

We are pleased that the City finally did the suggested maintenance repairs to the road surface and foot bridge this past summer of 2020 that had been recommended as far back as the 2011 inspections.

This bridge was completely refurbished in 2008 by Santa Barbara Public Works Department was found it to be structurally sound, in good condition. Taxpayer's dollars could be better spent by both the City and County by better maintaining the existing footpaths and pedestrian crossings near Rocky Nook Park. This proposed 11 million dollar incentivized project threatens the historic bridge and surrounding area where Rocky Nook Park  has been nominated as a Historic landscape with it's importance to the Chumash and early Spanish eras .

The bridge has withstood the test of time, not even a crack, with the 1925 earthquake of 6.8 magnitude that heavily damaged the historic Mission and demolished most of downtown.

Fire evacuations thru the Mission Canyon Corridor over the years have all gone smoothly with no problems. There are two debris basins above the bridge that County flood control inspects regularly.

The Santa Barbara Police Dept hot spots map shows this is a "Vision Zero” corridor, there are no accident statistics that support the need for a new wider bridge which would result in widening the roadway and increasing traffic speed.

Further, this is a “share the road” Corridor which means “one after the other.” this includes the bridge area where bicyclists have the same traffic rules and are on the same level as motorists. The entire length of the 140 ft bridge is straight with good visibility with 5 ft shoulders on both sides.  Traffic at 25 mph moves smoothly between the two parks on either side, the historic Rose Garden and Rocky Nook Park.

How did we get here?

The opposition, a small neighborhood group effort known as “Safe Passage,” years ago had a public workshop to give ideas to the City to discuss possible improvements for the Mission Canyon Corridor. Adding new pedestrian path and bike lanes were some ideas. The unanimous consensus on record, however, was not to alter the Historic Bridge over Mission Creek. 

In 2016, the City and County Public Works Department’s joint application to fund new pedestrian and bike lanes was rejected by the State Active Transportation Program (ATP) for funding in this designated “share the road” corridor where bicyclists have the same rights and rules as vehicles.

With no safety justification, the City of Santa Barbara was not willing to fund the project. The Santa Barbara Police and Sheriff’s Department’s records showed no deaths or reoccurring accidents on record through the corridor.

The City Transportation Department discovered, however, they could qualify for 11 million dollars of federal funding under the Federal Highway Administration if they replaced/rehabilitated the Historic Mission Creek Bridge.

The bridge project qualifies for funding only because the bridge is classified as “structurally obsolete”. This simply means that they do not build bridges this way anymore. The whole plan was drastically changed to qualify for this new tax payer’s source of funding.

The City Council on 5/22/18 directed transportation with a new plan and moved ahead with this pork barrel project initially against Transportation’s recommendation to secure bridge funds with full disclosure it was not consistent with the majority of feedback staff had received at public outreach. The bridge studies are only that, this is not a project and there is no obligation to be pushed into making any changes or selecting any of the Bridge Team's study options that jeopardize the historic integrity and charming character of this area.

The Coalition to Preserve Mission Canyon is advocating for some sensible solutions .  There are several improvements that the City could do that would be beneficial.

The biggest potential for accidents according  to Santa Barbara Police Traffic Circulation Department is a "Hot Spot" at the Alameda Padre Serra "triangle" crossing that is in close proximity. A crosswalk  has been recommended in this spot per the Pedestian Master Plan that have yet to be painted by Public Works, recommended  back in 2006 as part of safe routes to school with Roosevelt Elementary School in proximity. This is where both locals and visitors often jay walk to cross from the Rose Garden to Rocky Nook Park.  

Slightly moving the Oliver Trough Fountain back within HLC standards of acceptance would elevate the "pinch point" at Mountain Drive for pedestrians and bikes.

The existing natural pathway on the East side could be better maintained .  We understand that County will be putting in an enhanced crosswalk at the Natural History Museum corner at  Puesta del Sol and Rocky Nook and another at  Las Encinas.  Under grounding utilities along the sides of the road would  also be an improvement.


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NonBidenary Jun 15, 2021 01:38 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Sadly, the ‘people in charge’ don’t care what you think and they’ll make the changes anyway. Palms get greased, cities change, ‘progress’ ensues, and the world gets uglier.

PitMix Jun 15, 2021 01:47 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Biking through here is very sketchy. At the very least they need another bridge next to the current one for bikers not willing to risk their lives. That will require the the loss of some trees.
Have any speed surveys been done to see how many of the drivers actually go 25 mph?
And are you telling me that this ancient masonry bridge actually meets current seismic standards? Or that it was able to withstand the one large quake we had about 100 yrs ago?
We can always let the next quake take it down and then the road would be closed for months/years.

a-1623814177 Jun 15, 2021 08:29 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

As for bikers, if it is dangerous to bike, why can't they walk their bikes on the pedestrian part?

mtndriver Jun 15, 2021 09:03 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Pitmix, the bridge did survive the '25 earthquake. I like the idea of a separate bridge for bikes (and pedestrians). Strengthen this bridge. Don't make the road easier to speed on! People already really push it around the curve to the north of the bridge. If it was wider and straighter, people would just go faster. Then we'd need some kind of traffic control at Mountain Drive, or those of us coming down there would never be able to turn left onto Los Olivos. Any time a road is "improved," people drive faster. Keep it narrow and slow!

PitMix Jun 16, 2021 07:08 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

829, theoretically bikers have an equal right to the roadway. Practically speaking, we know that we don't stand a chance against a 3000 lb car with 300 HP, so we might walk our bikes in the narrow walkway. No way the walkway is ADA compliant, right? I just avoid that bridge, mostly.

MarcelK Jun 16, 2021 10:20 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

People cycle there all the time without incident. As this very well written op-ed points out, the real danger point (especially for pedestrians) is the triangle, which desperately needs a crosswalk.

sacjon Jun 16, 2021 12:09 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

PIT - there's a small bike lane in the road you can use. If you're not comfortable, use the walkway. Why do we need to destroy historical architecture just so every single person, whether they use the road or not, might have "perfect" access? If the wood roadway is not "ADA compliant," then neither is the Goleta Pier or most parts of Stearn's Wharf. Should we yank those down and make concrete piers instead?

DBD Jun 16, 2021 04:37 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

I ride my bicycle over the bridge a couple times a week and have for years and love the way it is. If you feel its sketchy, perhaps you should stick to driving a vehicle with seatbelts and airbags to make you feel safer. The stone bridges and walls in this area is what makes it special, lets not rebuild everything with faux stone patterns like some retaining wall on the 405 in LA somewhere.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jun 15, 2021 03:09 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

This kind of nostalgia for something as meaningless as a bridge is truly ridiculous. That intersection / area is a bottleneck and a hazard. Rebuild the bridge and bring it up to seismic standards so it doesnt fall down during the next quake. (can you imagine the traffic mess we'll have if that happens?) Widen the road, put in sidewalks and a bike lane and a turn lane onto APS that doesnt cause a back up. And while you're there clean up all the rusty fencing and other junk. Its rather odd that these folks who want to preserve this bridge are fine with the dilapidated fencing and steel that surrounds the old reservoir... or is that historical too?

NonBidenary Jun 15, 2021 03:21 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Wow, you’re right. While we’re at it, let’s tear down the mission and put in condos or, even better, low income housing. It’s such a meaningless structure anyway.

a-1623815895 Jun 15, 2021 08:58 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Wow, good thing you're not in charge of the Roman Coliseum, or Egyptian Pyramids. There is no data showing the intersection is a hazard. If a quake takes it out, THEN rebuild it. It's stood for a long time, as have other historic monuments that also made it through quakes for 1000+ years. Jeez the provinciality here can be gagging at times.

MarcelK Jun 16, 2021 10:25 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Intersection? Bottleneck? Back up? Turn lane onto APS? What the heck are you talking about? And none of this has anything to do with the bridge.

The triangle needs a crosswalk (and accompanying signage). That's about it.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:40 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Sail380 said it well wheather you apreaciate the historic features and charecter of the area or not "Funny how different people see things. You think the Golden Gate Bridge is the bottleneck. I think its the city streets getting to the bridge"

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:45 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:45 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, what a lame excuse, I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 11:03 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, earthquake, what a lame excuse, build a new one? I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 11:03 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, earthquake, what a lame excuse, build a new one? I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 11:03 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, earthquake, what a lame excuse, build a new one? I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 11:04 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL, earthquake, what a lame excuse, build a new one? I wonder if a few people think the Old Mission, the Natural History Musuem or Courthouse should be rebuilt or retrofited for earthquakes.

Zenyatta19 Jun 17, 2021 01:54 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Nostalgia for something as meaningless as a bridge? It’s not just the bridge, it is what multiple lanes, flashing crosswalks, straight bump less wide roads and huge sidewalks do to the character of the area. While they are at it, maybe they should replace all the stone walls on APS with concrete, imminent domain private driveways to widen the road where it is only one lane. Put in some stoplights too. All in the name of “ safety”. Widen and straighten that road and someone will actually get hit. Much safer for people to cross a two lane road than a four lane road. There is room for everyone on the side of that road. And common courtesy when crossing the bridge works just fine.

bumblebee Jun 15, 2021 05:11 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Why hasn't there been any mention of the Steelhead that live in the pool at the bottom of the bridge? Leave the bridge and Steelhead alone.

sacjon Jun 16, 2021 09:33 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

SAIL - stick to saltwater. Changing the environment (ie, destroying and rebuilding a stone bridge and supports over a creek) easily affects spookish fish in creeks.

Sail380 Jun 16, 2021 10:04 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

SACJON why do you assume saltwater? You need to do some research. Have been a member of the Westlake, Fresno yacht clubs and sailed extensively on the Great Lakes. Being so knowledgeable about all things, I'm sure you helped coordinate construction of the new bridge at Turnpike and Cathedral Oaks to not interfere with fish migration.

Byzantium Jun 15, 2021 08:22 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

In order to get that romantic view of the bridge that is always used by this opposition group, you have to crawl through the heavy bushes from the Rocky Nook parking lot, scramble across big boulders, and down to the slippery creek level to get this shot. But only if you photo shop out the chronic tagging and graffiti on the less than aesthetic main sewer pipe which they left out of this opposition publicity photo.. Not the typical view of the bridge at all. i suspect most people driving this route almost do not even know this "bridge" exists as they never see if form this creekside view. They see it only as a cramped curve in the road where pedestrians, bikes and cars are squeezed into a choke point and a continually damaged "historic" rock wall after people miss the curve. Lots of misstatements in this op-ed. Get the facts and better yet, get the full perspective of the entire issue at hand, the pedestrian safety goals, the enhanced access between the Mission and the Natural History Museum, and the aesthetic options that make this a win-win instead of just this biased NIMBY objection. Best option of all is to walk it and realize these are welcome improvements; not a destruction of this beloved and scenic corridor.

tagdes Jun 15, 2021 08:49 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

I couldn't really see the Golden Gate Bridge when driving over it either...definitely should tear that down and re build it like the bay bridge...terrible traffic bottle neck there going to Sausalito.

Sail380 Jun 16, 2021 09:20 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Funny how different people see things. You think the Golden Gate Bridge is the bottleneck. I think its the city streets getting to the bridge.

sacjon Jun 16, 2021 09:32 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

BYZ - unless you are old and feeble, it's pretty easy to get to this spot. There's literally a little trail down the bank of the creek. It's clear you hate just about everything, so I doubt you've taken the time to explore this beautiful area.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:35 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

If you check the facts, the entire corridor including the Bridge is Vision Zero Compliant.
It is not a "hot spot" acording to Santa Barbara Police Departments traffic circulation.
This means the very few single car accidents over the years have been minor non injury .
I don't think the City would be interested in or has millions of dollars to make a path from the Mission to the Museum, there is already accesss along the park and crosswalks to the museum.
Leave it alone , love the black and white pic!

salsa guy Jun 16, 2021 07:26 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

My question is WHY. Is this someone’s pet project? Just because there’s funding available does that mean it has to be spent? Is this FOMO? I drive Mission Canyon daily, have done so regularly for the last 15 years. I have never seen or heard of an accident, vehicular or pedestrian on that road. Why do you think that an Amazon truck flipping was newsworthy because there are no newsworthy accidents on that road. Yeah let’s straighten the road and make it safer—-what world are you living in. If traffic now moves at 35-45 mph, a straight road will move those speeds up easily by 10-15 mph. You call that safer for bikers and pedestrians? Yes there neeeds to be a work around for pedestrians and bikers at the bridge and the curve. Maybe a separate
bridge? What’s wrong with using an old historical picture of the bridge? More inviting than the renderings of the new speedway for sure. Yes there are steelhead in the pool next to the bridge, not sure how they survive giving the lack of rain. The
Claim that the bridge is structurally deficient is a general classification that applies to engineering that is no longer in vogue. I guess the Roman aqueducts that are still working in the south of France are deficient also. Leave the bridge alone!

Babycakes Jun 16, 2021 09:42 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

I think that it's a foregone conclusion that the bridge is coming down for a seismic retrofit. Sure it's an interesting bridge, but you cannot manage and plan safety issues based on feelings and romantic ideologies. I'm sure that they may be able to save a few of the stones, and the water trough, but the mini-reservoir will be a casualty of the upgrade. So get ready peeps....our shiny new safe bridge is a-comin'.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 10:21 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

LOL BabyCakes, FYI, you can not build a bridge or even retrofit a bridge to be earthquake proof you can only earthquake resistant. This bridge has withsood the test of time with the 1925 earthquake heavily damaged the Mission and leveled the town, not even a crack to the bridge. In the mud slides after the Thomas fire the new bridgewas totaly taken out , not the old historic ones. many disagree with you and dont want a shiny new bridge! further there is noting that is not safe about the old girl or it would be shut down. The bigiest risk is the drivers that will speed up with any unencessary straightenting , there is no problem with line of sight, I bike thru there several times a week as I have for years.

Babycakes Jun 16, 2021 10:47 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Lorax: Everything that you've said is true. It's also true that the bridge is going to be replaced with an upgraded bridge. Everyone knows that it's time to make that thoroughfare safe for everyone. I love the bridge as much as everyone else who love it, but I've taken my emotions out of the equation. I also hate all of the pop-outs along State Street, but know that they are good for business, and what's good for business is good for the rest of us as it relates to the pop-outs downtown.

sacjon Jun 16, 2021 10:55 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

BABYCAKES - "Everyone knows that it's time to make that thoroughfare safe for everyone" - No, not at all. How is it unsafe for some groups?

Babycakes Jun 16, 2021 11:21 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Sacjon: Possibly you're one of the folks who don't think that those who require wheelchairs deserve safe passage. How do you feel about independent elderly folks who get around on little electric scooters? Not worthy of safety in your world. How about parents pushing their babies around in strollers? Nope, no sidewalks or safe passage for them because I have feelings about an unsafe bridge and stretch of road. Think about is Sacjon how when you spout off it make one believe that you are just trolling or that you are so young/inexperienced that you know everything.

sacjon Jun 16, 2021 11:44 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

BABY - Was access for disabled and elderly people the reason they're doing this? Not sure that's true at all. Have you ever been on this bridge? There's a sidewalk, albeit a wooden one, that has been able to accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, scooters, etc. As a young parent many years ago, I used to walk my kids across it in their strollers, no problem. Sounds like it's you that's trolling.

Babycakes Jun 16, 2021 12:05 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Whatever Sac. Bridge will be upgraded, and it will have sidewalks on both sides, space for bicycles on both sides, the "S" curve will be straightened out for the most part, trough will be moved a tad, cross-walks with blinking pedestrian lights installed, possibly the reservoir will be partially or completely demolished. Don't shoot the messenger as they say. And remember, Safety First! This will be such a huge win for everyone who is able to see the future....and we still keep our charming, but safe, status.

Babycakes Jun 16, 2021 12:18 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Sacjon: You are right. I should have written "Wut evz." Please stop making light of those who have to spend their lives in wheelchairs and only want a bit of access to the world like the rest of you who are healthy.

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