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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sacjon Jun 16, 2021 12:22 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

BABY - again you fail to answer the question. Was this retrofit planned because the bridge has no wheelchair access? I'm not making light of anything, just wondering how this bridge is not already accessible? Goleta pier is wood. Most of Stearn's wharf is wood. Los Carneros bridges are wood. The little bridge at Alex Keck is wood. There are plenty of wood walkways that are used by ALL all over town. So why does this one need to be destroyed and paved over?

Babycakes Jun 16, 2021 12:41 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Here ya go: Whatever recent updates/changes/improvements/etc. that they made to the Mission Creek bridges at Haley/De la Vina, Chapala/Yananoli, Montecito St., W. Gutierrez, Cota/Bath, Bath (600 Block), W. Ortega, will be very similar as to what they will do with the Rocky Nook bridge. So, by default ADA requirements must be applied to said project.

sacjon Jun 16, 2021 02:28 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

BABY - ah ha! There you have it. No ADA retrofit is needed....UNLESS they update the existing structure. It's not about accessibility, that's just an end result of any structural modification they make on it. There is no requirement to retrofit it as it is now, nor has accessibility been one of the motivations behind this project.

a-1623918547 Jun 17, 2021 01:29 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Babycakes, Yes you can manage and plan safety issues based on feelings. You can also plan using facts . Facts such as the zero accident rate here. You don’t fix what’s not broken especially when it’s historical. Very low speed limits that are actually enforced. Sharing the road with bicycles ,also enforced,. Roadway striping that is highly visible and pedestrian signage that makes them pay attention. Funny a city which installs oddly placed planters and bulbed out curbs purposefully to slow traffic, wants to remove these existing obstacles so traffic will flow faster.

Babycakes Jun 17, 2021 09:42 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

@1:29: Please spell out the steps of how to safely/legally get from the Natural History Museum to The Old Mission in a wheelchair without the use of a vehicle. Feel free to manage and plan this trip using all the feelings that you want. When they improve the bridge, the updates will accommodate pedestrians and those in wheelchairs (scooters/walkers/crutches/etc.). Why is it that when someone is in a wheelchair, you could care less about accommodating them? Does not sound very "progressive" to me at all to be uncaring.

a-1624084022 Jun 18, 2021 11:27 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

What does the Natural History Museum have to do with the mission? Since you think they need to be connected for people in wheelchairs or crutches (because so many people on crutches are hopping around town) a paved pathway on the east side where the existing trail is plus curb cut outs at the triangle would take care of it.

Lorax Jun 16, 2021 11:01 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Yes babycakes. Why do you think we just got this designation, https://www.edhat.com/news/santa-barbara-named-in-30-most-charming-small-us-cities
talking about making things better, this is what keeps visitors comming back we don't look like alot of cities, Dont mess with a good thing or bite the hand that fees you has you have pointed out

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

Sail380 loved 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 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.

HEH Jun 16, 2021 12:14 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Pedestrians walk on the wrong side of the bridge even when signs indicate not to...fix this problem as there will be a serious accident or death at some point. I personally don't care that it never has happened. It will...just watch the white line over time as it disappears as more and more cars cut the corner entering the bridge from Mission Canyon. I personally travel this bridge daily and often several times a day and have come very close to meeting pedestrians walking hand in hand along the bike path oblivious to anything around them. or at times with mothers pushing strollers. At times in the past even large groups of children (out of town I presume) walking to the Museum. It is dangerous. Find a way to protect pedestrians and drivers.

a-1623875936 Jun 16, 2021 01:38 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

I drive over that bridge two times a day five days a week. I see no pressing traffic or safety issue and as for the prospects of stability in an earthquake, that bridge will be around long after the posters here are transformed into free nitrogen unless it gets demolished. It is made of solid stone which is much more durable than concrete.

PitMix Jun 16, 2021 02:32 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Solid stone? Carved from one giant block? Not.

Pretty sure is it old block masonry construction which is really weak to withstand EQ shaking forces. Those are the structures that kill the most people during EQs.

a-1623879722 Jun 16, 2021 02:42 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Pitmix , do your homework man. Clearly not carved from one giant block. It is made of solid stone blocks the way they have been making bridges for thousands of years. Here is one from 605 AD in China that is used every day:

PitMix Jun 17, 2021 08:33 AM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Anonymous poster at 242, do your homework man. Stone block masonry bridges are extremely susceptible to earthquake damage because they have no resistance to tensile forces due to lack of internal reinforcement.


a-1623878830 Jun 16, 2021 02:27 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

If the Museum hadn't wanted direct access to the Old Mission's tourists for monetary gain back in the early 2000s, this debate would not exist. Blame the City DOT for applying to the feds for bridge demolishing money back in 2011 as part of the Museum's building process. There is no public right-of-way here to widen the bridge without private property owner cooperation for which we tax payers are going to pay them handsomely. Also, Rocky Nook Park land will be taken and the heirs who gave up their inheritance for the public park put a deed restriction that their donation was for park purposes only. Why is their no ADA access to upper Mission Historic al Park from the rose garden? Is this not a most important area where paths are the only access? Did you know that City DOT was asked to put an ADA ramp from the rose garden area to the Old Mission path? They said "NO" and instead, in 2019, put in two useless, inaccesisble ADA ramps to nowhere east of the Old Mission to the foot of APS . There is even a fire hydrant blocking the sidewalk at APS at the ADA ramp. Why has the collision problems at APS not been addressed? The City Transportation has no creativity and no desire to solve real problems. They do not even try to save historic and scenic resources. Grab free, easy money, build fast and cheap, say the community wants this and other fabricated reasons and then destroy the heritage that the community did not want touched. Look on the internet how thousand year old stone bridges are functioning in good condition and being retrofitted and maintained keeping historic integrity by transportation departments and communities all over the world who love their heritages This bridge project is slick, sick, immoral, wasteful, and down right unethical. But who cares. It is the American way. $11 million and counting in free money is all that matters. It is easy enough to prevent pedestrians from walking on the west side shoulder. Put in an aesthically pleasing planted barrier on the west side path and a crosswalk to the safe east side path. But it does not cost enough and takes too much real, positive, cooperative, thinking and planning.

PitMix Jun 16, 2021 02:34 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

Because it wasn't posted enough lower down...
"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."

Byzantium Jun 16, 2021 02:38 PM
We Love Our Mission Creek Bridge

The Mission Creek Bridge is not that historic and it has already been changed multiple times. Making pedestrian access easier between the Mission and the Natural History Museum is a good thing; not a bad thing. For schools, for tourists and for locals. Two well-visited gems, tied together through safer access.


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