Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

Rendering of a new State Street redesign option that includes a shuttle (courtesy) title=
Rendering of a new State Street redesign option that includes a shuttle (courtesy)
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By the edhat staff

The State Street Advisory Committee reviewed three options provided by consultants to redesign the State Street Promenade.

The consulting company, MIG Inc., is reportedly receiving $800,000 from the City of Santa Barbara to hammer out this remodel, but attendees at the May 24 meeting say they didn't nail it at all.

The Advisory Committee and community members met in the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Central Library for over three hours and listened to representatives from MIG.

During their full presentation, they stated the most frequent community concerns centered around emphasizing pedestrians on State Street, flexibility and adaptability, safe bicycle access, diverse public seating, space for art/performances, and family friendly. There also must be emergency vehicle access and ADA compliance.

MIG classified State Street in three districts; Arts (1300-1000 blocks), Civic/Celebration (900-700 blocks), and Entertainment (600-300 blocks). They then explained their three options for the enhanced thoroughfare are: Flat and Flexible, Multi-Modal, and Hybrid.

1. Flat and Flexible

"Flat and Flexible" option (courtesy)

This option consists of a curbless street from the 500-1200 blocks, that is generally closed to cars and maximizes activation and programming. This means the includes of spaces like interactive art, cafe seating, outdoor kiosks, and designated play areas. 

When the street is open this could offer a one-way vehicle lane for commercial and emergency vehicles, and/or shuttles. 

The renderings of this option depict a separated bicycle lane, outdoor dining, increased pedestrian walkways, and play areas. 

2. Multi-Modal

Multi-Modal option (courtesy)

This format includes a curbed street from the 500-1200 blocks that is generally open to cars allowing for increased transportation options. 

A one-way vehicle lane will be available throughout with the ability for curb extensions in some areas to allow for a variety of uses such as outdoor dining or art installations.

This design will be primarily open to vehicles and shuttles, with a separated bicycle lane on the street.

3. Mixed / Hybrid

Hybrid option (courtesy)

The third and final option is a mix of the first two and shows the 500-600 blocks with the multi-modal design, the 700-900 blocks with the curbless "flat and flexible" design, and the 1000-1300 blocks back to the multi-modal. 

The 400 block would separataly have a two-way street with some curb extensions and the 1300 block would retain curbs with the option of one-way or two-way vehicle traffic. 

The bulk of the frustration seemed to concern bicycles and pedestrian safety with some community members stating they want cyclists off State Street entirely and re-routed to Chapala and Anacapa Streets. While MIG presented this  their presentation as "not recommended," City staff reiterated it was not an option due to traffic management.

The State Street Advisory Committee will discuss the options and transpoortation suggestions at their next meeting. The design concepts will continue to undergo evaluation and edits throughout the summer with the final plan expected to be completed in the Fall and submitted to the City Council late 2023/early 2024 for approval.

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sbrobert Jun 06, 2023 11:22 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

State Street is NOT CLOSED. It is closed to private motor vehicles. It is wide open to humans.

Please look at this set of images and you will understand why a space with humans looks "empty" in comparison with the usual American scene packed with metal boxes.

Voice of Reason Jun 06, 2023 11:32 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

Keeping it closed to motor vehicles will further exacerbate our vacancy issue. Santa Barbara simply will not ever allow the building densities required to support a mile long pedestrian promenade. All street level retail would need 10 stories of apartments above it to make the longest-in-the-nation pedestrian promenade successful.

sacjon Jun 06, 2023 11:39 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

VOICE - if closing it to cars is what caused vacancies, how do you account for the decline in retail and resulting vacancies that took place pre-covid? I'm open to evidence, but I just don't see anything indicating that tourists stopped spending money on State because they couldn't drive on it.

Voice of Reason Jun 06, 2023 11:49 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

1) covid, actually our response to covid, created the most vacancies, 2) keeping it closed to cars further exacerbates vacancies as retailers don't want to be on the promenade 3) prior to covid we were at the tail end of a shift in retail with the adjustment of increased online shopping for typical goods. It took time for retailers to adapt to create a more experiential shopping experiencing on focusing on goods people wanted to buy in person rather than online. Most shopping still occurs in person rather than online 4) many of the vacancies pre-covid also to do with some landlords price expectations and the ever increasing costs of upgrades and code compliance issues required when bringing in a new tenant. Before covid downtown was far from dead, and while there were sporadic vacancies, businesses were thriving.

sacjon Jun 06, 2023 11:58 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

Which "retailers don't want to be on the promenade?" Are you saying businesses are closing because the cars are gone? Or, are no new businesses filling up vacancies because the cars are gone? I'd be interested to hear from store owners why they're not opening shop on State and from those who recently (last 3 years) closed their businesses.

I think a lot of it is the same reason State has always suffered: ridiculously high rents coupled with lack of demand for brick and mortar retail shops.

Those shops that are open are generally pretty expensive, and understandably so given the high rents. So, until prices come down (rent drives this) and availability goes up, there's not much reason for locals to ever shop downtown.

sacjon Jun 06, 2023 12:12 PM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

Be interesting to see what, if any, air quality improvements there have been inside those businesses on State. I'd think employees and their employers would rather be breathing cleaner air. With all the cruising on State, there was a lot of idling engines just feet away from restaurants and shops. Yet another reason to keep as many cars off of State as possible IMO.

Lorax Jun 06, 2023 03:56 PM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

We need cars to be able to come thru State Street to add life!
Have you seen what they have done in Pismo Beach and Paso Robles? Lanes for cars and slant parking on both sides of the street. It's hopping plenty of vitality and no empty storefronts. Businesses are challenged because of the current mess.
Bikes don't need their own lanes they can share the road and are subject to the same vehicle codes.

Ahchooo Jun 06, 2023 06:16 PM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

Good point: if the speed is kept low, bikes should be able to share the road with cars. They all need to stop at nearly every intersection, and watch for pedestrians, so maybe a dedicated bike path is not crucial in the core downtown area. I’d like to see well regulated cars and bikes, with plenty of space for pedestrians.

marcus schiff Jun 07, 2023 07:12 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

Not one comment about attracting housing to the Downtown. It is remarkable that the consultants hired by the City and City Planning are so clueless as to the primary element of a vibrant , safe and economically thriving contemporary downtown- Housing. AIA Santa Barbara has been advocating this since 2017. Seems like it is worth a try to focus on something that would energize and revitalize the area. Pretty pictures of sidewalks do not address the issue of the decline in Downtown. How can more housing be developed in Downtown SB? By creation of a Tax Increment Finance District that provides financial incentives to developers of housing, and requires a percentage of affordable units in return for suspension of property tax for a typical financing period of 15-20 years. Ultimately the long term property value and tax revenue from successful housing and related services will be a much better deal for the City.

Voice of Reason Jun 07, 2023 04:49 PM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

The city wouldn't loosen their tight restrictions on development and allow something like that from happening. They're constantly saying they want more housing and more affordable housing then enact policies that make it harder/more expensive for housing to be built.

Mebk Jun 07, 2023 07:52 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

This is just putting very expensive lipstick on a pig. Open it back up to cars. Cars were not the problem. How many of us old time sb folks miss driving up state streetWork at getting stores back here that we can actually shop in. Who else sits home nd orders cloths online since there are no places to shop here. I’m sure you could have spent the $800.000 on better things.

Humanitarian2003 Jun 07, 2023 11:20 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

The "valuable" but vacant commercial real estate along downtown State Street should be reappraised at its actual value and all repurposed through public acquisition, then redeveloped in such a way that the property can serve the needs of a modern Santa Barbara. Times have changed and the downtown area of State with all of its vacancies and vagrancies no longer can serve the commercial needs of Santa Barbarans.

a-1686163686 Jun 07, 2023 11:48 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

There are not that many vacancies, you make it sound much worse downtown than it actually is. And where would the city get the funds for all this acquisition and development? If they would just lighten up on the building requirements, design review requirements, storm water, requirements, height restrictions, density restrictions, even through in some property tax breaks private developers will build more housing.

absolutetrygve Jun 08, 2023 05:11 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

As a small business owner, I can say that the rent needs to reflect the amount of customers and what they spend. In a high foot traffic area, of course the rent can be higher, at least if you have customers. This is absolutely not the case in SB. So many people now shop online, and expect the cheapest possible prices, that a store is kind of absurd, unless you're a destination boutique or restaurant or gallery or what-have-you. It's simply not feasible. The costs of running even a simple store, and staff, insurance, taxes, etc, make it unrealistic. And if you are a destination then you can be in a much cheaper area, than State preferably in a big city, and people will come to you. The old days of crowds ambling along browsing are long gone. I know people will argue this, but it's true. You might get a few tourists, maybe for t-shirts, or local souvenir tchotchkes, but no one can survive on that. If Santa Barbara actually was serious about revamping downtown, it would take an actual effort to promote State as a destination, meaning maybe California businesses, and that includes from LA, because SB doesn't have enough. I doubt it will happen because this whole thing seems intractable, and it's same tired arguments over and over. People are never coming back to State St without a huge effort by the City to promote it. And advertise it. Support it. Actually make an effort to support small businesses. The 1970s and 80s are gone.
Right now downtown is a mess, and the big controversy is still about cars or no cars. It's ridiculous. And it's such a basic thing. How do less mobile people get around, to start? Meanwhile, the caliber of businesses has decreased, while ebikes and drug users/panhandlers run rampant.
Does anyone remember I Magnon? Saks? Hunts? Earthing? Even JC Penny? And so many others. All long gone, because they can't make any money.
And yes, I own a store, (27 years) and it's a destination store for essential oils and perfume ingredients, but we have to be in a big city. I had hoped a few times to open in SB, but there is no way. The numbers just aren't there. You pay high rents but get nothing for it.

Ahchooo Jun 08, 2023 07:09 AM
Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

We need more actual business owners to weigh in on this issue. You are the ones who will or won’t run the businesses that attract the shoppers. We also need housing above the shops, which will encourage the range of shops to be more varied (to serve everyday needs as well as tourist needs).


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