Improvement Consequences in Old Town Goleta
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- firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for your time,
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