Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining
By Anna Marie Gott
To accomplish this, it has been and continues to be an appropriate practice to charge developers and others who wish to alienate street space for their purposes, a fee for use of the public space."
The quote above comes from a white paper from the American Public Works Association (APWA) on the value of the public right of way. Recently the City of Santa Barbara litigated a multi-year case involving the value of the public right of way. ROLLAND JACKS v. CITY OF SANTA BARBARA 'ended' a few weeks ago. In this case the City argued for the highest valuation for the public right of way in order to prevail in the case. It is completely inconsistent now that the City would treat the public right of way as having no value. Yet, the Council has decided to value the public right of way at $0.00 per square foot and is set to eliminate the rent businesses currently pay.
The City expects an annual loss of $75,000.00 to the Public Works budget as a result. The elimination was proposed by Public Works, and it is important to note that the largest single beneficiary of the elimination of the rent is a senior Public Works Official. That official, Rob Dayton, along with his wife, are listed as officers on their ABC license for the Brat Haus. Eliminating the rent, if Brat Haus pays for the 48 seats shown on its approved plan, would come to $14,352.00 annually (48 seats x $299), or one fifth of the entire annual gift that Public Works is asking you to give.
Besides the fact that this is another example of businesses demanding public property for free, this plan if not modified will violate the Pedestrian Master Plan, which the City adopted in 2006 and this current ordinance is silent on, because the ordinance was last updated in 1999.
Then there are the benches on State Street that are collecting dust in a City warehouse. Most of the benches have been removed from State Street over the course of several years without any public notice or discussion. The City Council has never decided to remove the benches. Instead they were removed by Staff without any design review or City Council action. These benches need to be returned to restore the walkability of State Street. Instead, Public Works wants to provide only places to sit where residents and visitors have to pay to sit. Once the City gives the sidewalks to businesses for free there will no longer be any room to bring the benches back. It is important to note that the State Street Plaza was carefully designed with benches in specific locations by the best landscape architects in the City.
From a public health standpoint smoking must also be considered. With the elimination of the rent the City will see an increase in the number of patios where outdoor smoking is permitted as bars and wine bars are permitted to allow smoking at all times on the sidewalk under the current ordinance while restaurants can permit smoking on the sidewalk patios after 10:00PM. - Will your actions today affect the City’s grade from the American Lung Association? Will it affect eligibility for future grants? – It does not seem right for the City to call itself a “Smoke Free City” and then actively expand the number of locations for outdoor smoking on State Street.
The City just hired a consultant to tell it what State Street needs. The consultant’s report is due shortly. For all we know the consultant will recommend that the City should take steps to make State Street. more family friendly. Why aren’t you waiting for the study before you take steps to expand smoking and drinking on State Street? If you already know what State Street needs, then why did you spend almost $100,000.00 on a consultant?
State Street isn't family friendly any longer. It may be because of the amount of alcohol, the lack of benches, the lack of goods that would attract residents rather than tourists. Instead of eliminating the rent the City should consider using the revenue to promote State Street.
The City needs to consider that an ordinance to regulate alcohol was promised in April. It has not been presented. I don’t understand how this ordinance to increase outdoor drinking jumped ahead of the long awaited ordinance to regulate alcohol sales. Why aren’t you waiting to consider the alcohol ordinance before committing the City to expanding outdoor drinking on sidewalks?
If you still want to give a gift to businesses and landlords, I would urge you to leave the ordinance as is, and instead direct Public Words to institute a temporary incentive which is limited to new restaurants, short term in nature, and restricts smoking and outdoor alcohol sales. No ordinance change is needed as long as some rent is charged “as compensation to the public for use of the sidewalk or right-of-way.”
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