Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

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By Anna Marie Gott

Council Members, 

"As the owners of the street right-of-way, municipalities have an obligation to manage the land on behalf of municipal taxpayers.
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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31 Comments

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a-1573816445 Jun 12, 2019 08:41 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Just eliminate the usurpation of public space and eliminate the sidewalk dining entirely. If the businesses can't take advantage of their location in State Street, Santa Barbara, the American Riviera, and require public subsidy to survive... that's not a free market. The landlords end up the beneficiaries, the same group that has allowed State street to fall into its current state of dissipation. Last time I checked most of us citizens/ constituents are not property owners on State street yet the council may give them the perks and disregard our interests.

SBSBSBSBSBsb Jun 12, 2019 03:34 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

I would say Gott is a much larger waste of tax payer money than this. With all the of the bogus appeals and dragging on council meetings for hours she has cost the city far too much money

a-1573816445 Jun 12, 2019 09:21 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

I have neighbor like this, constantly attacking and "writing letters" to the City about everything. It's tiresome. No need to spend all your time sticking it to the City for every little thing. Sorry, just my opinion.

Factotum Jun 12, 2019 09:16 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

If State Street remains full of empty storefronts and continues its unsavory decline, the city is not losing any money giving away free side walk tables that are never see customers in the first place. Review the ordinances, get the paper work in order, and grant downtown businesses a short-term variance boost to see if the entire State Street downtown enterprise can recover. City's refusal to control vagrants made downtown outdoor dining so unappealing, many businesses just up and left. City should be paying businesses to give outdoor tables another try, working with their new downtown clean-up efforts. Demanding businesses pay for the privilege of their customers getting harassed by bums when dining outdoors is simply not a money maker for the city or the businesses. Downtown is in desperate straights considering the public investment we have in its tax base, which includes their premium property tax base generation. Cut them some slack with some responsive flexibility, but get the proper paper work in order. Fair enough. And clear up any conflict of interest issues when private citizens own businesses in city limits, who also are city employees. Total ban and personal vilification in the press is extreme.

Factotum Jun 12, 2019 04:46 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

No one said free tables for bars; only restaurants and coffee shops. Who said unlimited handouts - only for a short period of time to see if this can help State Street recover its former vitality. Read what is written when you want to rebut an argument. Don't just argue just with yourself and put someone else's name on it.

a-1573816445 Jun 12, 2019 03:12 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Factotum why are you pushing for more free stuff for local bars? $12,000 a year is nothing to a large establishment like the Brat Haus. If you keep giving handouts they will never be able to survive on their own.

RHS Jun 12, 2019 08:52 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

If the facts about Dayton's economic interest in this are correct and he voted or initiated this action and did not disclose this conflict the city has an obligation to discipline or remove him from office. Once again the city council has deferred to bureaucrats and tried to evade the work we elected them to do. This must be pursued further and refuted or acted on.

a-1573816445 Jun 12, 2019 08:39 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Interesting observations. It's good to call attention to this proposal as it should have wide discussion of the pros vs. cons. However the author, Ms. Gott, is a strange source to raise issues like this since she lives in Los Olivos. Why would an out-of-town person suddenly, a few years ago, start showing up at all Council and Commission meetings with something to say about almost every topic on the agendas?

a-1573816445 Jun 12, 2019 09:42 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Gott lives in SB, representing her downtown area in the Allied Neighborhood Assiciation. Regardless- giving away, gifting use of public property to anyone for private benefit is unlawful.

Factotum Jun 12, 2019 09:20 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

The messenger had no problem initiating the ad hominum attacks. No reason she should not get them back, in return for the tone she chose to set. She raised some good issues - but there needs to be facts not just speculation if this issue can reach a good outcome for all concerned. $250 x 0 is still $0.

a-1573816446 Jun 11, 2019 04:42 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

That's an unfortunate mindset. Ms. Gott uses a "shotgun" approach, picking apart issues at each and every angle there is. I get it, some of it comes off as off-the-wall and nitpicky, but you are definitely missing some incredibly solid arguments if you dismiss any post she writes. As usual, I don't always agree with what she says, but boy am I glad we have people who look out for our city with such vigor.

andrewbaker77 Jun 11, 2019 01:19 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Opioid. Really. Until you solve the Opioid epidemic, this is all just rearranging the Titanic loungers. Benches/no benches. Smoking/no smoking. Retail/no retail. None of this matters when Opioids are ruling downtowns all up and down the coast.

a-1573816446 Jun 12, 2019 09:51 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Americans are free to choose. Don’t save us from ourselves. Stop imposing social programs. Let us do as we please when it’s our business, not yours; unless of course, if we’re harming others such as children we created.

a-1573816446 Jun 11, 2019 01:01 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Smoking allowed outside restaurants now? Another reason not to walk the sidewalks of downtown or even drive past. I smelled cigarette smoke the other day while driving and then discovered the source was a driver up ahead of me in another lane-----and quite some lengthy distance away. Astonishing. That smoke is bad for you and who the heck wants to breathe it in? Not me.

Factotum Jun 11, 2019 12:46 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Enhancing the commercial viability for downtown restaurants and discouraging vagrants and panhandlers on State Street works for me, and are very much in the best interests of this city dependent upon retail sales taxes and tourism appeal. Too many gaps and flaws in your arguments, Ms Gott.

PitMix Jun 11, 2019 11:36 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

The author so clearly has an ax to grind that I don't know if anything in article can accepted as fact without further investigation. That's why these things are called opinion pieces. The benches were removed due to problems with homeless monopolizing them. Usually we would be congratulating the City for addressing this issue, and also for their business friendly policies on outdoor seating. But today we are castigating them for this. As if our businesses weren't already paying a fortune in rent and having a hard time with all of the other costs of staying in business in SB. I'm pretty sure the seating doesn't impact the access requirements for anyone who is challenged, and I believe that smoking is not allowed near entryways- only in designated restaurant patios after 10 pm. Sidewalk seating is not a separate restaurant patio, right?

monkeyboy Jun 11, 2019 11:09 AM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Regardless of what you think about the economics of this, the conflicts of interest with public works and Rob Dayton are just astounding. The fact that the staff can make changes such as the benches without any oversight are just the usual "one rule for me and one rule for thee".

a-1573816446 Jun 11, 2019 02:25 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Factotum it sounds like you like socialism when it benefits a private business. $250 per seat per year is a small aount for these places to pay for using OUR sidewalk to sell their food and drink. the fee is small comared to the benefit they are receiving. The Brathaus and Daytn would benefit more than other restaurants because they have more tables than everone else.

Factotum Jun 11, 2019 12:50 PM
Flawed Ordinance Changes for State Street Patio Dining

Dayton was not the primary beneficiary of this change; all other downtown restaurants get the same and equal treatment. His stake is incidental and minimal; compared to the benefit to the city's tax base if the overall benefit of these changes accrue. .

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