City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

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Update by Dana Johnson

The item was not on the Agenda and all I have is this weird thing from the meeting. They are bringing it back this week, but I don't see it on the Agenda.


By Dana Johnson

When the Soviet Union disbanded the people we now call "oligarchs" got rich by getting the new Russian government to give them public assets for far less than what they were worth. This week the bar and restaurant owners of Santa Barbara are hoping to pull off the same trick. They want exclusive use of city sidewalks for customer seating without paying us for it. I say "us" because it is "ours."

The public property in Santa Barbara is held in trust for all of us. It should not be given away or rented for less than it is worth. This is a terrible precedent. Obviously if the city decides to allow these sidewalk takeovers for free, there will be a lot more of them created, and the existing ones will be expanded to claim as much free real-estate as possible.

Furthermore, these outdoor bars areas on public sidewalks are a gaping loophole in the city's alleged crackdown on public smoking. This is contrary to the grant money the city has received as a reward for its supposed crack down on outdoor smoking.

It's just a fundamental principle of good government that public real-estate should not be rented or given away without fair compensation. The public sidewalks belong to all of us. The city has already removed the majority of public benches on State Street and now they want to create a situation where you have to pay sit down. It is the continuation of a trend where the city proposes to charge residents to use public parking and public sidewalks but at the same time proposes to give them to business for free.

Let your Councilmember and the Mayor know that you expect better stewardship of our public assets: SBCityCouncil@SantaBarbaraCA.gov. 


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Ahchooo Jun 02, 2019 11:38 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

OP, please tell me: is this a change from previous policy? Were restaurants being charged for sidewalk space before, and how much?
What bothers me is that when a restaurant closes and the stanchions are removed, they leave ugly marks where the stanchions were attached. I believe the restaurants should be charged to restore the brick pavement. They messed it up, they should put it back the way it was.

a-1559593232 Jun 03, 2019 01:20 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Restaurants and business owners PAID THE CITY for use and maintenance. The City has the money and obligation to restore public sidewalk property to its original condition.

a-1559501567 Jun 02, 2019 11:52 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

This issue certainly needs to be addressed as we head into the lucrative summer season on State Street.

oceandrew Jun 02, 2019 01:23 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Dana, the fair compensation you cry for comes in the form of higher foot traffic and patronage to these establishments resulting in increased sales and SALES TAX collections.

22701015201 Jun 02, 2019 03:57 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Higher foot traffic? Eliminating the minuscule fee bars and restaurants pay for prime real-estate won't increase foot traffic or sale tax on State. The city already collects that. IMHO You sound like a true believer in Trickle-Down Economics. Give businesses whatever they want, tax breaks and deregulation to name a few, and things will look up for everyone. In this case the city seems hell bent on throwing good money away, money they receive in rent, only to tax residents for the shortfall.

a-1559749088 Jun 05, 2019 08:38 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

So you're in favor of giving away public property for the benefit of the few? They already have a sweet deal with far below market rent. Some businesses just aren't well run and won't succeed regardless of the public largesse.

LocalinSB Jun 02, 2019 02:45 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

$75,000.00+ Loss to City. This is a giveaway to landlords. They benefit because it is a no-cost entitlement for a business fronting State Street. Taxpayers will be on the hook for more money to fund a bloated do-nothing city government that wants to use public resources to benefit low wage jobs and keep the exploitive high rents for State Street landlords out of sight. - MEMO to Landlords; The downtown is the Funk Zone. Reduce rents. Bring in quality shops residents want. Ditch the teen and tourist shops. And stop trying to be hip. You aren't. $.99 store and the homeless is your new normal.

Factotum Jun 02, 2019 04:07 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

If this helps re-vitalize State Street downtown, it is ultimately a good investment. Hope this is monitored for fiscal benefit. Will reducing fees create higher sales tax revenues? Long term data, please.

a-1559593047 Jun 03, 2019 01:17 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

No more free give aways. Try first removing various options for homeless as allowed by 9th Circuit 9/2018 Decision.

Shasta Guy Jun 02, 2019 05:03 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

The city is letting the homeless sleep on the sidewalks for free. Why not let restaurants bring in paying customers instead?

Factotum Jun 02, 2019 05:37 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Sleep on the sidewalks or the city owes you a free house. How about if we sit at a sidewalk table, will the city give us free food? Thank the 9th District Court.

a-1559592923 Jun 03, 2019 01:15 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

The Council policy is homeless can only camp on public sidewalks 6’ or wider to allow 3’ for Am Disability Act pedestrian passage. Next step could be to close off State St for an all-inclusive destination world class homeless camp.

sbmh2015 Jun 02, 2019 05:35 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Dana, if you have the source, can you give me the link about the funds given to support no smoking ordinance and where it is against what the city is doing ? I've been in communication with the county that is handling these funds and would like to follow up with them. The enforcement of this ordinance is so lacking.

NostraChumash Jun 02, 2019 06:34 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

I remember when it was free.
Only a few places had wrought-iron fencing with permanent chairs, locked at night.
Then, many others began to place a small table or two outside of their businesses, but took them in at night.
The City saw $ & charged apx $100 per table, which worked for a while, but cost-cutting made them disappear, leaving behind the stanchion marks.

Arnon Jun 02, 2019 11:47 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

I think one of the ways you can tell a corrupt City from a clean City is whether the elected officials and bureaucrats hand out public property to cronies gratis like stocking stuffers at Xmas. I've lived in places where the government took great care to figure out the worth of using the public right of way for commercial purposes, and charged accordingly. The current system in Santa Barbara of charging rent for annexing public sidewalk, does a decent job of that. I don't understand the comment about sales tax revenue. I could say that about giving away ANY piece of City property to a business for free. Give me free square footage and I'll generate a little sales tax revenue for ya'! The author's point as I take it, is just that it shouldn't be free rent. It's akin to extending the State Street property lines halfway out the sidewalk, so that land is just handed over by the City to the adjacent property owners, happy birthday and thanks for the campaign contribution. Bad sign for the future if current city council thinks public real estate is their personal goody bag from which to dole out treats. Regarding "revitalization", it is the outdoor drinking scene and associated noise and bad behavior that is keeping families away from State Street and hurting economic development, as much as the homeless who themselves gravitate toward the night scene and its panhandling opportunities. More sidewalk partying will make things worse on State Street, not better. The City wants to encourage apartment development. Are there that many prospective tenants who don't need to sleep at night?

a-1559545053 Jun 02, 2019 11:57 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Why anyone would want to sit outside to drink and eat while they breathe in the fumes from passing vehicles is a mystery to me. People are so stupid about their health.

Levi Jun 03, 2019 06:12 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

What is the sidewalk setback from State Street? It is entirely possible that these areas are actually private property. I'd like to see more research and facts, including comparisons to other cities' policies, before forming an opinion.

a-1559748399 Jun 05, 2019 08:26 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

" It is entirely possible that these areas are actually private property"

Nope, nice stab at alternative facts though.

Ehdat Jun 03, 2019 06:28 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

What are you talking about? No smoking will be allow in any of the patios, nor was it allowed before.

SBCountyLocal Jun 03, 2019 07:26 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Smoking IS allowed on patios. First, there are exemptions. Second, who tells people they can't smoke? I've seen plenty of people on patios (on State St. in the public right of way aka sidewalk) smoking day and night. There are exemptions in the ordinance (SBMC 9.20.030). They are: Outdoor patio areas and outdoor dining areas of bars. Outdoor patio areas and outdoor dining areas of restaurants after 10:00 p.m. - But before you think there won't be smoking at restaurant patios think again. Bars = Restaurants for the purpose of the Chapter 9 (SBMC 9.20.10) in the City's Ordinances. If a restaurant has a alcohol license they are a bar. If a restaurant does not have a alcohol license they are a restaurant. - For every "rule" the City has you can find an exemption around it. I don't know what the biggest disgrace is. That the City has so many loopholes for everything or that we have no enforcement for things that are much bigger than smoking. It is the wild west and you can get away with a ton of stuff if you know what you doing. - Residents need to wake up and get involed. This City is poorly run and itsn't operating the way people think it should. If residents don't start getting involved the Santa Barbara we have now is going to be gone in a few years. A handful of years will destroy what we have. The Council is about to tilt toward a majority that seeks growth at an unprecedented level and will push through high density development without a transportation system or parking for the residential units the property owners and developers are lobbying for downtown... LA like congestion, on HWY 101, tremendous parking issues, sky high rents, 5 story buildings, massive gentrification and more carbon emissions are on their way.

Crystalandmaui Jun 03, 2019 07:45 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Wow, I seriously can’t believe want people think of to complain about. I read all these remarks and I feel each one, holds no merit. Every day I read this, (Edhat) first let’s make state street better , let’s bring in more retailers, and restaurants and let’s make it better for the renters of these establishments.
Now I read, let’s make it harder for them to have more costumers and have them pay higher rents, let’s stop the outside fresco dinning. That’s part of the Santa Barbara charm, it’s our little European shopping dinning area, that people love to come to. So losing revenue is the answer?
And where are the street benches, I was there last weekend with my husband and there was no where to sit down, this is crazy. Guess what men like to sit outside while their wife’s go in side a store. I read someone’s comment, this is not a hip place for the younger people, so I will gather the people writhing this stuff are old, what you were not young once. what’s wrong with being hip and evolving or staying with the times? Keep up people, it’s not going to stop for you. The younger generation will keep it alive.
So let’s keep it a nice mix of culture. And stop making it harder on the retailers or restaurants.
I love to eat outside. Being a part of what’s happening with the community.
There are homeless everywhere and always has been especially by the beach areas.
And will be more, unfortunately housing is to high for most, and not just in beach areas. LA has the biggest homeless problem, so be glad their aren’t tents on the street. But being on the street is not illegal. So how do we help that situation, they are humans, maybe sick with mental disease or disabled or lost their job to technology. Something gone wrong. So the big question and answer is helping them, so you don’t have to complain about them anymore.

a-1559748126 Jun 05, 2019 08:22 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

When did the city start allowing and charging rent for use of the public sidewalk and what are the annual revenues since then? How much does the public sidewalk rent for on a per square foot basis vs. market rate?

Factotum Jun 03, 2019 09:07 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

State Street closed off to traffic is dead and uninviting. Try it. How did most of the block "feel" just yesterday during the State Street Mile- nice crowds at the end of the race at DelaGuerra, but deadly (yes it was Sunday morning) on the other empty blocks with no background buzz of cars and visual activity.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jun 03, 2019 08:05 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Reading this OpEd the comments makes my head hurt. Its painfully obvious that there are far too many people in SB with far too much time on their hands and a woefully limited understanding of business, the role of government and the wishes of most people. Perhaps these so-called 'activists' should focus on their own betterment and education instead of looking for the most minuscule and inconsequential issues to protest? I know more would be accomplished in our town if these naysayers had a clue as to how the world worked instead of assuming that their feelings and their limited perception represent the wishes of the masses or the order of the modern world. On one hand we have a downtown that is littered with vacancies and vagrants and a serious problem in meeting the needs and wants of the citizens. And on the other we have a contingency of citizens who protest any and every change because its outside of their minuscule understanding of the world, the city and the population at large. Its a big reason we keep sliding further and further and a big reason we keep electing do-nothing, weak, pandering, noodle-brains. I doubt there is a town anywhere that has as many busybodies and naysayers as SB. Its endemic and its at the root of virtually every problem we as a community face. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but individuals opinions do not outweigh the needs or the wants of the whole nor should they even become an issue. simply because these people have so much free time. We need to stop pandering to these outliers and start making decisions based on their benefit for the whole. No one represents this problem more than our current noodle-brained, do-nothing mayor and nothing represents the problem more than an OpEd like this... Get a real cause Dana Johnson, it will serve you and the community better if you focused on something that actually mattered instead of such a trivial and frankly, meaningless issue.

Crystalandmaui Jun 03, 2019 08:13 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

I don’t know you, but agree with you.
Ok, so now what, how do we improve and stop the nonsense.

a-1559576371 Jun 03, 2019 08:39 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Rising Rents Downtown are the problem. Newspaper article after newspaper article cite rising rent at the end of a lease as the reason we have vacancies. Get a clue. Many landlords want vacant property right now. If they can show that State street is in trouble, the city is going to increase the residential density under the average unit density (AUD) program for zoning. Plus, many of our landlords are able to write off the rent that they are "losing" on their taxes because they own multiple properties and that's where they get their income. This is just another scam to put money in the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of the community and the residents. The last scam the city bought was the AUD which was passed because we were told we were going to get affordable housing for the workforce. What we got was housing for the top 10%. Affordable housing was bulldozed for luxury housing. The plan for downtown is residential for the very rich who want to get out of Los Angeles or retire in Santa Barbara. Where will people park? If we think rents for the Marc are high, wait until we see the rents for downtown. Do we really think our transportation system works? It doesn't. -- As for this proposal to reduce the fees for patios. It is just another giveaway. Landlords are reaping the benefits. Business owners pay a pittance for patio dining and through the roof for commercial space. They should not be allowed to operate on the public sidewalk without payment. Fair payment is needed for the use of public property.

Sam The Dog Jun 03, 2019 09:03 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

When I read a post that says landlords want vacancies for the write offs to put more money in their pockets I get saddened about the poor state of our education system and its failure to teach basic business and money management concepts.
"Many landlords want vacant property right now" seriously? Do restaurants want empty tables and retailers empty shelves so they can take a loss and put more money in their pocket? Take a business class please.
It's financially incompetent voters like this that keep putting financially incompetent elected officials on our city council.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jun 03, 2019 09:09 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Ignorance is not a virtue. Do yourself a favor and spend the time and energy necessary to educate yourself instead of just parroting someone else's (in this case) incorrect assessments and opinions. There is no such thing as affordable housing. If it sells or rents its affordable. If you dont make enough, its your fault, not the property owners. If you cant get a better job, then put the blame on your leaders for doing everything in their power to keep the wage market low and depressed. Do not blame the people who put their own time and money into building something, they are the ones who are actually risking their future and producing wealth, not taking it like our city's employees and leaders. There is only the market and subsidized government housing and regulations. Contrary to your thinking the later is the reason that rents are high and is also the reason that the majority of jobs in the city are low pay, low skill. Do you really think that 30 years of pandering to the tourist trade with their low skill, low wage jobs paired with the removal of a huge portion of housing from the market downtown has done you or anyone in this town a service? The city has been lying to you. Its basic economics. Supply and demand dictate price. Yes, wages should rise along with the costs but havent because the mayor and the rest of the city's leadership have stolen the money in order to pay for their own salaries, retirement packages and ridiculous government programs such as city run housing and huge tax breaks to hotels and developers. Your intentions are right, but your focus is towards the wrong people. Dont be a sucker, learn the facts and figures and then vote these buffoons out of office. Its the only hope if you want a chance at a better future.

a-1559581489 Jun 03, 2019 10:04 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Strategy. Vacancies are used during turbulent times to increase densities and reduce requirements for developers when there is an opportunity to rezone an area. This is about using vacancies to get something you want to cash out for cash in.

RHS Jun 03, 2019 08:32 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

It is a basic fact that the sidewalks are created and paid for by the public for public access. Allowing private business to use this is a theft of a public resource and a deprivation of the public's right to use its own property. There is no argument other than greed or corruption that says such loss of this space should be allowed without reimbursement. When homeless housing was being proposed for the public parking lots people rose up in outrage at such a giveaway. Where is their anger now? Hypocrisy is the only proper analysis. (Btw, try and build in the front yard easement of your property or to enclose the public sidewalk in front of your home and see what happens.)

Arnon Jun 03, 2019 09:01 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Wow Dana's op-ed has really struck a nerve. We all choose what to read and what to skip on Edhat. So when i read a comment devoting 300 words trying to convince others to ignore an article I always think of Shakespeare. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." This article prompted me to research the facts for a couple hours yesterday. Santabarbaraobserver clearly believes I should have spent that time doing something else, not discovering how corrupt this City can be. But I thank the author for the expose. There is so much going on that none of us know. CrytalandMaui asks "where are the benches"? The answer is: in a warehouse. The same folks orchestrating this gift of land from the City, in the last two years successfully demanded the City remove more than half of the benches i used to sit on. Clever! Now we need privatized sidewalks where you have to pay, because there is no where to sit for free. Did removing most of the benches stop the homeless? Or did it just deprive the rest of us of the seats that used to be available after the homeless claimed "theirs"? There was no public process of any kind about removing more than half the public benches on State Street. The business owners demanded it and it was done. I think it is fine for someone to write here that they don't care if they City Council eliminates the rent it currently charges for private control of public land. But iI disagree. I think it is scandalous. A big chunk of this gift, which was proposed out of the blue by Public Works last week, will go right into the pockets of the senior public works official who currently pays one of the highest annual rents to the City under this program, for his own restaurant and bar. Do you care about that? http://www.abc.ca.gov/datport/lqs.html?rpttype=12&license=528592

SantaBarbaraObserver Jun 03, 2019 09:21 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

The irony of your post is simply astounding. No one said that the city wasnt corrupt, on the contrary, I stated that this particular crusade is a total waste of time and is a fine example of the myopia of the progressives in SB. They and you, should take all that free time (of which you apparently have a lot) and focus on something larger, something that actually matters . You're railing on about a few inches of a sidewalk on State St while the majority of people want more outdoor dining, more Riviera like experiences? You are literally rearranging the deck chairs while the ship sinks.

a-1559581519 Jun 03, 2019 10:05 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Paid vs Free Patio Dining. This is what the article is about. It's about a LOSS of revenue. Restaurants and bars already pay a fee. The city is not going to lose or get any additional sales tax. They now want to eliminate the fees they already collect and have been collecting for decades. Other cities have patio fees for dining on public sidewalks and public property. With this insane change taxpayers will pick up the shortfall. Right now this money is used for something. Once it is eliminated taxpayers will see a ncrease in taxes in some way shape or form or a cut to services because of this shortfall. On the other hand business owners and landlords reap benefits off free public land.

a-1559582594 Jun 03, 2019 10:23 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Maybe loss of revenue but there'll also be a loss of expense to the city. What no one has mentioned is the city will most likely allow those businesses to use the sidewalk on the condition they maintain them. This goes beyond keeping them clean but concrete and brick repairs as well. Sidewalks being raised / damaged by the street trees? It will now be the businesses or landlords responsibility to fix.

a-1559584986 Jun 03, 2019 11:03 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

City Employee to Benefit $$ - Rob Dayton, Transportation Planning and Parking Manager. - Owner of BRAT HAUS. Huge Patio. Guess City is watching out for its own.

a-1559591867 Jun 03, 2019 12:57 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

You gotta be kidding? The City has no standards beyond its give-away that which is not theirs to give.

a-1559592232 Jun 03, 2019 01:03 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

This OpEd is about much more than paid vs free dining. You hit a homer in by telling all we will all pay more to compensate the City for this REVENUE LOSS. Stop blatant conflicts of interest such as those at public works, and at SBUnified. Stop give aways. Make City workers WORK the full week that we pay them to work. End Friday’s off with pay. Cut sales and other taxes. Cut salaries and pensions given the number wanting City jobs.

ZeroHawk Jun 03, 2019 09:23 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

i don't care of restaurants put chairs and tables on the sidewalks. I pay for the sidewalks with my taxes, and this does NOT bother me....what does bother me, and downtown Ortega to Haley is in my neighborhood, is that they took away the benches. So when myself and my two daughters walk downtown to get a snack or a treat, we have to sit on the edges of the planers, almost on the ground. This is completely f'ing ridiculous. PUT THE BENCHES BACK ON STATE STREET. Not everyone that sits on them are homeless beggars. Put more downtown patrols to stop the beggars and shoe them away, but removing the public seating was just more stupidness, like filling the fountains with dirt...dumb. Business owners and land owners downtown are to blame, and people, STOP saying the homeless are peeing and pooping all over state street. I went down last tuesday farmers market with my kids and took tally's. We counted 4 homeless people...sitting down or collecting cans. We counted 15 dog owners ignoring the no pets policy at the farmers market and 10 of those 15 dogs peed in the planters and 5 pooped. none was cleaned or removed. this is where your stench comes from. pretty simple.

Sam The Dog Jun 03, 2019 09:39 AM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Zerohawk, the problem with the wooden benches is that they can't / aren't cleaned after the homeless urinate and defecate on them (which I've personally seen). The benches that are left downtown I wouldn't touch nor let my kids.

a-1559591598 Jun 03, 2019 12:53 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Install metal round bubble benches. Carry paper towels to sit on. Don’t let children touch anything. Be extra careful in SB Public Parks. Who’s running for City Council to replace the status quo?

a-1559591600 Jun 03, 2019 12:53 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Install metal round bubble benches. Carry paper towels to sit on. Don’t let children touch anything. Be extra careful in SB Public Parks. Who’s running for City Council to replace the status quo?

ZeroHawk Jun 03, 2019 04:51 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

Sam, no they do not! I LIVE downtown, 2 blocks from this area and am there EVERY day when i'm out on numerous walks. I have seen and counted dogs doing this. The homeless are further down state, not in this area.
One possible incident that you claim you "saw", which i highly doubt, doesn't mean everyone without a home craps on the sidewalk...that's just lame. You're just one of the many that like to blame the town's problems on a handful of crazies or homeless people.

Sam The Dog Jun 03, 2019 05:12 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

While there is ALSO plenty of dog crap to go around dogs don't crap on the benches. I was unfortunate enough to witness with my own eyes, homeless man (unassumingly) laying under a blanket on the wooden bench, in the middle of the day with plenty of people around, and this liquid started dripping out beneath, more unfortunately, he rolled a little pulling up his blanket so I had to see the side of his crap crusted butt (his pants were down)! This was on the 1000 or 1100 block. Why would I make that up?

mtndriver Jun 03, 2019 06:00 PM
City Gives Away Public Sidewalks

It sounds like that man was very ill. People don't just poop lying down in public unless there is something seriously wrong with them. I think the thing to do in a situation like that is to call 911. The dispatcher would know who to send.

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