Santa Barbara Architects Speak Out on Parklet Debate

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By Tai Yeh, President of AIA Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara chapter of AIA (American Institute of Architects) is writing this letter in response to the Independent Article “Santa Barbara's Parklet-Palooza Rocks On” to set the record straight.

Over the past few years, our organization has sponsored large, collaborative, local-volunteer efforts to assist with envisioning the future of downtown Santa Barbara. AIASB enthusiastically supports the outdoor dining that the downtown parklets provide, the promenade, and the lifeline that these have provided to our local businesses during this difficult time.

Our organization did not seek out involvement in the City’s rethinking of parklet guidelines. In December 2020, members of the City Council petitioned AIASB's advocacy committee to help City staff review existing parklets, enclosures, and parklet guidelines for health, safety, accessibility, and conformance with aesthetic standards in the downtown historic district. AIASB volunteers responded with suggestions for simple and cost-effective ideas, focusing on supporting the businesses, the City's process, and responding to staff concerns. Recommendations included no timelines, expecting that any changes to the existing design standards would be a lengthy process requiring input from community leaders, decision makers, the business community and local stakeholders.

As stated at last week’s Council meeting, AIASB firmly believes that the City should allow maximum flexibility in accommodating existing parklets in the public right of way, and that businesses should be included in conversations about City policies that affect them and downtown.

The Santa Barbara chapter of the AIA has a long history of collaborating with City decision makers, our local community, and City staff. Our members generously volunteer their skills, knowledge, and time toward the goal of achieving a sustainable, livable, beautiful, and resilient community.

[Editor's Note: The Independent maintains during the presentation to City Council, staff said they'd "received a lot of input and feedback from the architecture community who are concerned with the appearance of the parklets and State Street."]


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6 Comments

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a-1625157658 Jul 01, 2021 09:40 AM
Santa Barbara Architects Speak Out on Parklet Debate

Interesting that the AIA is saying this, but weren't they involved in all of the updated guidelines? Are they saying the city completely ignored them or are they backpedaling after a backlash from biz owners?

FernaldPoint93108 Jun 30, 2021 05:03 PM
Santa Barbara Architects Speak Out on Parklet Debate

The little-discussed issue here is that the city may be sued over ADA violations on July 22, which is the end of the 90 fix-it period for a complaint filed earlier this year.

Stray Jun 30, 2021 03:20 PM
Santa Barbara Architects Speak Out on Parklet Debate

Amen to "the City should allow maximum flexibility in accommodating existing parklets...... and that businesses should be included in conversations about City policies that affect them."

Restaurants are just getting up and running after 16 months of Covid restrictions. State Street as a pedestrian zone is just starting its first full opening summer. Give businesses the opportunity to work out parklet design, lighting, and access for themselves.

Every tourist who has traveled to a pedestrian friendly zone in Paris, Barcelona, Florence, or Miami knows what I'm talking about: adjoining restaurants with different colored canopies over tables in the street, strings of lights at night, prix fixe menus on chalkboards, a street musician or two. Charming.

City Officials should lighten up about "conformance with aesthetic standards in the downtown historic district" or we'll end up with uniform beige colored parklets with red tiled roofs and uniform "Old Spanish Days" lettering on restaurant signs.

monkeyboy Jul 01, 2021 03:52 PM
Santa Barbara Architects Speak Out on Parklet Debate

They do, but guidelines need to be recommendations for now with long phase in periods. These restaurants just barely survived, they don't need to have to double down on their outdoor investments when they are just getting on their feet.

Byzantium Jun 30, 2021 02:03 PM
Santa Barbara Architects Speak Out on Parklet Debate

If last Sunday afternoon was any indication, blocks 1000-1300 State Street (the formerly HIstoric Arts District) was almost totally dead and looking very tawdry, with one dozing sprawler pouring themself over some of the empty neon pink seating cubes. Nope, "State Street" pedestrian and outdoor dining mall is not working at all in this part of the street. So storefronts were empty and so wide open, not even racing bikers were their to annoy pedestrians, that I assumed they were clearing everything out for a parade. But they weren't. It was just dead and very dreary. And tourism tax will run $3 million or so under budget. This current plan is not working. Not sure who the cheerleaders are that enthusiastically scheme to keep this going. Put the former Historic Arts District out of its misery. Open it up to street traffic and hope it regains some of its old vitality - theaters, arts, cafes, small unique restaurants with easy car access parking, instead of this impenetrable and disjointed maze of dead ends and dead street life.

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