Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

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By Tom Modugno

An open letter to the Goleta City Council,

My name is Tom Modugno. I’m the owner of Santa Cruz Market and I have worked in Old Town Goleta for 45 years. A lack of parking, pedestrian safety and bike safety are all very real problems in Old Town and I applaud the city for making an effort to address these problems. However, the drastic measures proposed by city staff to fix these problems seem to be overkill and may have some unintended consequences. I think there may be some more moderate steps that can be taken before we essentially re-invent the Old Town wheel. 

We have been in dire need of more parking for decades, just like lots of cities. Our situation here is we have a thriving commercial district within an overcrowded residential district. So, businesses are competing with each other and residents for parking. City staff’s plan of putting a parking lot in the middle of our main artery of traffic seems counterintuitive, to say the least. And while they try to support their logic by providing examples of other cities that have successfully implemented such a plan, the examples are very different situations than Old Town, apples to our oranges. 

We are unique that our streets are not laid out in perpendicular grids, with route options one block away. The Pismo example of Price Street is paralleled by Highway 101 and Highway 1 on either side, providing a simple option to bypass the on-street parking slow down. Old Town residents trying to get to their homes will have to slowly crawl through the maze of parked cars and traffic on Hollister, or more likely, choose to work their way through the narrow neighborhood backstreets. And not just residents will likely choose this backstreet option. If Hollister is congested, lots of non-residents will soon learn the routes through the winding backstreets, some of them in a hurry, resulting in a very dangerous situation for Old Town residents of all ages. A worst-case scenario would be non-residents that don’t know their way through the backstreets, rushing and frustrated, trying to get out of the Old Town maze. We could be trading safety for parking. 

The obvious disaster of Alternative 3’s middle of the street parking plan is you are asking people to sneak across Hollister with no crosswalk. Government subsidized jaywalking! But all three alternatives require tricky parking maneuvers, made even trickier when you add passing cars, bikes and pedestrians, all negotiating narrow passageways. This is not Price Street, this is Hollister Avenue, a popular and busy place. Again, trading safety for parking.

 Whichever alternative you choose, the new parking spaces will all be occupied 24/7 without a serious increase in parking enforcement. Meanwhile, just 2 blocks to the south, sits a huge empty parking lot and big deserted Yardi buildings, with serious parking enforcement! Can the city not work out a deal with the owners of all these empty parking spaces? Have we tried?

Another very important safety question that is not answered by the info provided is how do emergency vehicles negotiate the new layout? With all 72’ of Hollister spoken for, how does a big firetruck rushing to save a life get through? How do any first responders get through this maze of parked cars, traffic, bikes and pedestrians? Today, even during rush hour, there is ample room for cars to pull out of the way and let them get to their important work. Hopefully this has been carefully considered. 

Having done my own small survey, some merchants are outraged by this plan, and some are so desperate for parking, they’ll try most anything. Personally, I believe Hollister is the main artery of Old Town and it provides our lifeblood, customers. If you cut down that flow, merchants will pay the price. Old Town Goleta is one of the last semi affordable places to try your hand at the American Dream, owning your own business. Take a walk down Hollister and speak to the merchants and you’ll see they come from all walks of life, and all over the world. We are almost all mom-and-Pop businesses, and we have very few empty storefronts! We lost some businesses to COVID, but eager new entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill the void. Today, you might see huge semis using the center lane as a place to unload their necessary deliveries to these small businesses. The new plan will eliminate that option without providing an alternative. Today there are turn lanes for customers to easily access these small businesses. The new plan will eliminate that option also. We survived COVID, but our challenges are not behind us. Merchants are now having to deal with crazy inflation and hoping we can avoid a recession. In our near future we will have to also deal with some major construction projects coming to Hollister Avenue. Two roundabouts will be built on either side of Highway 217 and a whole new bridge will be built over San Jose creek, naturally cutting Hollister down to one lane and no doubt causing congestion for who knows how long. Adding this experimental reconfiguration of our main artery on top of these construction projects could be the end of a thriving Old Town. I hope you all consider this carefully.

In closing, this experiment may work beautifully, or it could be an absolute disaster, no one knows for sure. All I ask is can we please wait until the Hollister construction projects are completed before we try? To be proactive in the meantime, we can try more subtle remedies, like adding more stoplights and adding more push button crosswalks to slow folks down and maybe eliminate some hurried passing through. Can we reach out to local property owners to make more public parking lots? Finally, can we enact a serious speed and parking enforcement program on the Hollister corridor? I understand you are under some serious pressure from a very vocal bicycle group, but you should not be rushed into a decision of this magnitude. And if after all the construction dust has settled, and we still have the same problems, then let’s try this major experiment. 

This meeting is Tuesday, If you have an opinion send an email to- dlopez@cityofgoleta.org

Thanks for your time,
Tom Modugno


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14 Comments

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star2007 Jun 06, 2022 01:22 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

Just FYI, I believe the council just approved an agreement for 35 of the lot spaces in or near Yardi to be designated for public use. Not the entire lot of course, but just FYI.
https://www.noozhawk.com/article/development_agreement_could_make_35_parking_spaces_public_old_town_goleta

mp805 Jun 06, 2022 01:22 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

Thanks for the write up and information on whats happening in Old Town Goleta. I like your suggestions and common sense approach in the final paragraph. It amazes me the amount of traffic that goes through Hollister in this area. A point of disappointment in your op-ed Tom...there are no amazing visuals included I've come to expect from your Goleta blogs and posts. :) This Independent article form June 4th from The Independent shows the three layouts Goletas proposing and they are leaning towards Alternative 3 which is the parking in the middle of the street. LINK - https://www.independent.com/2022/06/04/goleta-council-considering-old-town-parking-on-tuesday/

bicyclist Jun 06, 2022 05:17 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

I can see why he didn't include that pic at the top of your link! The bus is busily picking off bikes & about to take out the woman exiting the passenger side of the parked blue car! Looks really "Exciting" if you're cycling or a pedestrian! What "Artist rendering" moron would show a BUS with a bicyclist ON his bike while on the rack on the front of said bus??? As Tom mentions "...how does a big firetruck rushing to save a life get through?..."
From the Link MP805 provided: "The city opted to use painted lines to designate new lanes and parking configurations, since the timeframe was long and money was short for a more complete plan that would alter curbs and add trees and landscaping." Heck yeah, More trees & landscaping???
Thanks TOM for this !!!
I'd vote Mr. Modugno for Mayor (also...) but I'm not in the district, maybe I should move to Goleta to put it on the table...

bicyclist Jun 06, 2022 05:31 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

I ran out'a steam there at the end, it should have said: maybe I should move back to Goleta so I can vote for Mayor Modugno.
I think that's where I was going with most of that.

Bird Jun 06, 2022 05:02 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

I just read the Indy story and saw, " reducing the total number of lanes from four to two — one in each direction — and adding bicycle lanes." --- cutting motor vehicle traffic and adding bicycle lanes there is insane, imo. The city might as well say "good-bye" to many of the present small businesses struggling there now.

Why not make the bike lanes through old town residential where the speeds are slower and where probably more Goleta bicyclists live?! I am would-be shopper in Old Town, the Oriental Market, Modugno's and other markets and I have much more often just given up and driven on through. Having parking in the center of Hollister with added spaces for bikes means I wouldn't even bother to try.

letmego Jun 07, 2022 11:01 AM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

I used to bike through old town to get to work, and may again. Better bike lanes would be a godsend, really. I pulled up a map, though, and I don't really see how you could move bike traffic to the residential areas...the streets don't really connect in any realistic way.

a-1654563230 Jun 06, 2022 05:53 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

"Patience" is always the answer when it comes to accommodating human beings vs cars. Cars rule and occupy public rights of way by default and everyone else is supposed to beg and wait forever.

These changes still give most of Hollister to private motor vehicles. How selfish do you need to be?

ParvoPup Jun 06, 2022 08:50 PM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

Uhm - you do realize that "humans" are driving those cars you rail against?

Do you really think for one minute that modern society is going to revert to ox carts and donkeys to carry our rears around some bucolic burg like the good old days?

And please, don't give me the same old tired as dirt "ride a bicycle argument" - who in their right mind tries to carry a week's worth of groceries on a bicycle except for the guy with the revoked license for DUI?

a-1654585249 Jun 07, 2022 12:00 AM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

Thank you, Star.

425/22
"The Goleta Planning Commission voted unanimously Monday evening to recommend the City Council approve a development agreement that would make 35 parking spaces available for public use in Old Town Goleta.

Fairview Business Associates, owner of the property at 420 S. Fairview Avenue, and Torridon, owner of the properties at 430 and 490 S. Fairview Avenue, are proposing a development agreement that would dedicate 35 of their parking spaces — which are currently private — for public use along Carson Street between Fairview and Orange Avenue."

Thank you Tom!!

ChrisL Jun 07, 2022 11:54 AM
Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta

As a bicyclist and driver both I am pretty unhappy with the increased safety and energency access problems the Old Town restriping Alt. 3 introduces. I agree with Tom Modugno, who has done his homework and has plenty of standing in Old Town. I for one would miss the left-turn lanes and NEVER park diagonally with less than a lane behind my car to negotiate with oncoming commuters--any one of them swerving out of my way could hit a cyclist. And how, pray, do drivers exit their median-parked cars and safely run across traffic without crosswalks? REALLY. I vote for more off-street parking like the old Airport Plaza/Yardi's, and push MTD to ramp up their shuttle service for workers and shoppers.

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