Downtown Santa Barbara Honors Local Heroes at Annual Awards Breakfast

Anne Petersen, Nicole Morgan, Elly Cuevas, Robin Elander (Courtesy)

Community leaders celebrated outstanding businesses, organizations, and individuals at the Downtown Santa Barbara Annual Awards Breakfast, held at the historic El Paseo Restaurant on February 28, 2024. The event, presented by Southern California Edison, honors those who significantly contribute to the downtown community.

Jason Yardi, recognized for his tireless efforts in addressing homelessness, received the 2023 Citizen of the Year award. Ramon Velazquez, owner of Corazon Cocina, was named Entrepreneur of the Year, for the continuous growth of his Mexican cuisine empire. The Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board, which develops innovative workforce strategies to achieve and sustain economic vitality across Santa Barbaras, was awarded Business Champion of the Year. Ron Robertson, Balboa Building managing partner, received the George Gerth Volunteer of the Year award, and Elly Cuevas of Santa Barbara High School was recognized with the Harriet Miller Youth Leadership Award.

The 2023 Citizen of the Year award recipient, Jason Yardi, was recognized by the community for his efforts in establishing affordable housing for our community. His dedication to this cause, working alongside The Housing Authority, has allowed for major developments and progress in this project that provides affordable Workforce Housing downtown.

In recognizing the 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year, Ramon Valezquez received the award in honor of his businesses’ success and expansion throughout our downtown. His three locations, Corazon Cocina, Beast Taqueria, and Corazon Comedor continue to entice and attract customers with his modern and creative takes on Mexican food favorites.

The award for Business Champion of the Year looks to recognize an organization that commits to and ensures the success of business downtown. This year’s recipient was Santa Barbara County Workforce Development Board, for going above and beyond in their efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on our community’s economy. Continuing this momentum, the board was celebrated for their work in 2023 for their continual commitment in developing strong partnerships, and working to make this year’s Job Fairs in April and September successful standout community events.

The Volunteer of the Year award highlights community members who are involved and dedicated to the wellbeing of our community. Named in honor of George Gerth, a Streets, Transportation, and Parking Manager, the award recognizes loyal and dedicated community members. This year, the honor was awarded to Ron Robertson of Balboa Building, for his outstanding service on the Board, as well as his efforts and support for the Community Benefit Improvement District Initiative.

Ramon Velazquez (Courtesy)
Anne Petersen, Ron Robertson, Robin Elander (Courtesy)
Anne Petersen, Jason Yardi, Robin Elander (Courtesy)

The Harriet Miller Leadership Award Scholarship seeks to honor and recognize a high school senior who has showcased exemplary leadership and community involvement throughout their high school career. This year’s recipient, Elly Cuevas, has demonstrated her community engagement through her mental health advocacy throughout the school district, consistently speaking out at board meetings. Her numerous initiatives and tireless advocacy have made her a standout young member of our community, inspiring peers and community members alike.

The Downtown Santa Barbara Annual Awards Breakfast celebrates the spirit of the community and showcases its achievements. For more information, visit

Downtown Santa Barbara has served as the champion and advocate for the stakeholders of historic Downtown Santa Barbara, California, with more than 1700 members since 1967. It also manages the Downtown Santa Barbara Business Improvement Districts (BID’s), providing enhanced services to make downtown a vibrant place for visitors, investors, and residents. For more information on DSB’s events programs and a directory of businesses, visit


Written by downtownsantabarbara

Press releases from the Downtown Santa Barbara Organization. Learn more at

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