Op-Ed: A Lot of Issues with Leadbetter Restroom Renovation

By Maura Lundy

On Wednesday, February 7th, Santa Barbara Waterfront Director Mike Wiltshire held a community meeting concerning the Leadbetter Restroom ADA Renovation. He said the City was listening to the Leadbetter Beach Community and that the City could agree to keep the wind-protected changing areas. But that same day the City put the whole project out to bid – including the demolition of the changing areas.

At this point how can community members trust the City or Mike Wiltshire? More importantly how can community members feel comfortable working with the City to improve the project for actual users after being labeled “adversarial” simply for stating their opinions and wanting straight answers?

First, why are the Leadbetter Beach facilities so important?

Leadbetter Beach is an epicenter of the Santa Barbara beach and ocean aquatics community. This location is bustling with many types of user groups on a daily basis and, due to the relatively calm waters at this location, is an ideal launching point for small craft and human body. Ocean swimmers, surfers, kayakers, stand up paddleboarders, SBCC surfing and ocean swimming classes, children attending summer camps, beach goers, Nite Moves, and the list goes on.

The Leadbetter Restroom ADA Renovation Project got off to a bad start. No public notice. A yellow sign notifying the public of the impending project should have been placed at the project site back in 2022 – 10 days prior to the first time it went to ABR. It wasn’t.

The City’s Planning Application Guide states: “All projects that require a public notice also require a Notice of Development sign to be posted on site. Applicants are responsible for picking up the yellow sign at the City Planning Counter and installing at the site no later than 10 days prior to the first public hearing date.”

Because the City didn’t follow its own rules, community members had no idea that this project was in the works until December 14, 2023 when a community meeting was finally held.

Late engagement. This community meeting for the proposed project was held AFTER the City received final approval for the project and AFTER the City had applied for a building permit.

Loss of facilities. It’s little wonder that community members are shocked and angry about the proposed demolition of the showers, the changing areas, and the elimination of 40% of the non-ADA bathroom stalls. See the plans here: https://bit.ly/LeadbetterADAproject

Three bathroom stalls replacing five? No outdoor changing area? Imagine the long lines of people waiting to use the bathroom while people use the stalls to change out of wet clothes. Imagine when SBCC ocean swimming or surfing classes let out. Or all the young children getting out of summer camp. Imagine changing on constantly wet floors before returning to school or work.

ADA poorly represented. More egregiously, this supposedly ADA-driven project never went to the Access Advisory Committee – the advisory committee related to access for the disabled. This committee is used by ABR and HLC in reviewing public projects such as this one. Why didn’t the Waterfront Department loop in this committee when initiating the Leadbetter ADA Restroom Renovation project?

Simply put, this project was not designed to serve the active users of the community and not for those with ADA requirements either.

Supposed “misuse” of the area seems to be the Waterfront Department’s top priority even though they can’t provide any concrete statistics. When asked for the incident reports, the Waterfront Director replied, “Don’t you trust me?”

A member of our group has searched Santa Barbara Crime Maps over the time span of one year and has made a public records request with City PD and Harbor Patrol covering a time span of several years. No incident reports have turned up to date.

Regardless of the nuisance “safety and security” issues that may exist at this location, the public benefit offered by the outdoor changing area and wind walls FAR OUTWEIGHS these issues that seem to be more of a nuisance to City maintenance workers, patrols, and nearby business than a true threat to public safety.

What now?

This project needs to be reconsidered. Instead of trying to make needed ADA accommodations to the current building envelope, a project that serves its beach community and serves accessibility, enlarges the restroom facilities and preserves the changing areas and shower wind walls is wanted and needed.

Let’s get this right!

Sign a petition to save the Leadbetter Beach changing area and showers:

Op-Ed’s are written by community members, not representatives of edhat. The views and opinions expressed in Op-Ed articles are those of the author’s.
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  1. What a travesty. The plan is to remove much-used amenities. Make it make sense…

    Who supervises the Waterfront Director? The City Administrator? I’m too lazy to look for a city org chart.
    Call your city council members to educate them and bring more light to this project. Maybe a pro bono attorney to address the notice issue?

  2. Mike Wiltshire and I have had words several times. He’s full of hot air and is a snake oil salesman. This guy doesn’t use ANY of these facilities. In fact I even question why HE is in the role and not someone more relevant. The City Council has been recklessly spending and destroying our city over the past four years. They are all, with only two exceptions, in this for themselves and are trying to change our city to THEIR liking.
    I use this restroom daily, i use these showers on weekends and have done so for DECADES. I have yet to see ONE person (handicapped) use those restrooms. Now they want to make them compliant for who? One person out of 500? Removing 40% of the stalls for what? Bigger stalls for wheel chairs? Yeah because there are a lot of wheel chairs at the beach.
    I’m not going to mince words here, this is a MASSIVE waste of our time, money and thoughts. Mike needs to back off and start listening to us. This guy as well as the majority of the City Council do not care what you feel or think. They have proven that time and gain immemorial.
    Also the waters off ledbetter are not the starting point for all of what the OpEd wrote. That would be the harbor beach. Ledbetter has a gnarly current and rip current. There are submerged dangers as well. The kids summer camp is a surf camp and they use the small waves at the point for this. It’s not the giant meeting spot that Op Ed wrote. Maybe 7 years ago. Have you been to ledbetter recently? no sand. hobos sleeping on the trail and beach. it’s mostly just rocks and kelp and more rocks.

    • Knein, gnarly current and rip current? LMAO. No. Almost never. Even on the biggest days the rip is barely there and the water just dumps off the point into deeper areas. I’ve been surfing Leds for decades and it is one of the most chill least “gnarly” spots you can find. So much so that its nickname is Bedwetter after all the little kids that surf there.

      Also, yeah, people in wheelchairs go to the beach. And they should be able to use the facilities that their taxes pay for, too. So take that BS somewhere else.

    • I used to have a Hobie Cat down there – awesome times. I grew up fishing near there in the harbor and off the sand bar (as we called it). I used to spear fish near Ledbetter point. My kids surf there now. Point is, in all those many years of being in the area, I’ve seen a LOT of people in wheel chairs along the bike path and just in the harbor/Ledbetter area, even ON the sand with a cool beach-wheel chair once. They’re there. They have every right to have an accessible bathroom there just as everyone else does.

      Whether homeless disabled vets or locals and tourists, people with mobility issues still flock to our beautiful beaches and should absolutely be accommodated.

    • Klein, your first paragraph had my attention, and then it went downhill from there. How can you bash wheelchair users? Have you stopped to think that maybe the reason you don’t see more of them is because the location is not user-friendly? (The State Street of the past couple of years, incidentally, has created the same problem) Enter the ADA. Thinking of others is good for everybody.

  3. The water supply for the shower heads would be piped inside the wall.
    If there is a problem you have to rip the wall down anyway.
    As long as those have been there they may have a problem with inside leaks in the piping right on the beach. That piping isn’t plastic which is not affected by the elements.
    You can bet that pipe is steel or copper, both affected by salt air and intrusion.
    So, maybe it is cost effective and solves the ADA?

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