State Street Advisory Meeting Draws a Large Crowd as Local Architects Present Sketches for a New Downtown

A packed house for the State Street Advisory Committee meeting at the Faulkner Gallery on March 18, 2024 (courtesy)

Excitement filled the Faulkner Gallery in Santa Barbara as local architects unveiled new sketches during the State Street Advisory Committee meeting on Monday evening.

The rendered drawings showcased potential designs for three blocks of State Street, along with the inclusion of several paseos, to provide a clearer vision for the future of downtown Santa Barbara.

The architects were invited by committee chair Dave Davis to form a team and develop these sketches. Volunteer Architect Anthony Grumbine stressed the importance of creating a design that truly embodies the unique charm of Santa Barbara.

Architect Anthony Grumbine speaks during Tuesday’s State Street Advisory Committee meeting (courtesy)

The sketches included the 400, 800, and 1100 blocks of State Street with the hopes of serving as a design toolkit to use when moving forward. The sketches were not meant to be interpreted as final designs so they do not specify whether vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians would be allowed on the streets.

The drawings depicted features such as fountains, trees, spacious sidewalks, market tents, landscaping, and art sculptures, all aimed at creating an inspirational atmosphere. There was also a discussion centered on naming sections of State Street to give each area a different feel, such as the “Arts District” or the “Fiesta District.”

Screenshot from the State Street Advisory Committee Meeting presentation on March 18, 2024 (courtesy)

The presentation received favorable feedback from committee members. “This is incredible to me, this is it, this is [a] homerun,” said Santa Barbara City Councilmember and committee member Kristen Sneddon, “this is, to me, what I’ve been waiting for… this whole idea of a Master Plan was, from my perspective, catalyzed from the AIA charrettes and all the important local work by our local architects that had vision. And those charrettes were beautifully done, then sat on a shelf.”

Hillary Blackerby, committee member and Planning and Marketing Manager for Santa Barbara MTD, said she loves the characterization of the paseos and thinks it is one of the most interesting and unique things about downtown. However she said there are other factors to take into consideration, such as the shuttle that many voiced during public comment.

Design sketch potential for the 1100 block of State Street (courtesy)

Blackerby announced that Santa Barbara MTD will be bringing back the downtown waterfront shuttle in a “temporary fashion” and a “very reduced level of service” starting May 31 through Labor Day. The shuttle will go up Chapala Street over at Sola Street, down Anacapa Street, and then to State and Gutierrez Street to serve the Amtrak Station, before heading down Cabrillo Blvd. to the harbor and zoo. The one-time grant funding allows the shuttle to run Friday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m., running about every 20 minutes.

Councilmember Meagan Harmon stated from a 50,000-foot perspective the designs are beautiful and more reflective of Santa Barbara, but the scale and feasibility of the redesign has yet to be determined.

Design sketch potential for the 800 block of State Street (courtesy)

“I will say though, I continue to have confusion… about where we are going, where this is going. And what I mean by that is, there are still some really big questions about State Street. Are we going to have cars? Are we not going to have cars? What blocks are going to be involved in this plan? Are there going to be bikes or no bikes? I do understand this is a framework, but I don’t understand how we can accept a framework that’s predicated on some really unresolved questions,” said Harmon.

Public comment varied from design ideas to transportation opinions, and the urging for more housing. Several commenters asked for property owners to consider mixed-use development projects to incorporate housing units similar to Santa Monica and Boulder, Colorado.

Design sketch potential for the 400 block of State Street (courtesy)

A public review of the draft plan is expected late summer-early fall, with the City Council anticipating a vote on the final master plan by early next year.

In 2022, the Santa Barbara City Council had previously approved a $780,000 contract with MIG for the State Street Master Plan process, but their renderings failed to gain public approval. While the contract is still active, the city has paid nearly half the contract fee.

Watch the entire meeting below:

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. Think of the people who NEED a shuttle: it’s people who don’t want to/cannot walk longer distances. How does one “cruise” State St to see the fun, and spot a store (if any are left) or restaurant or other attraction if they don’t know it’s there? Visitors from out of town, those from cruise ships, retirees, those with kids. PLEASE bring back a STATE STREET shuttle- not one a loooong block away. Even in a car, I still get confused about which block my destination is, whether a store or restaurant.

    • The piece of good news is that the waterfront shuttle is returning this summer! I’m hoping there will be a ton of positive feedback to let the council know this is something locals and visitors alike need and want.

  2. Pedestrian and vehicle circulation (not to mention bikes and e-bikes) and a shuttle should become key aspects of any overall plan. Use of the stops on the east side of Chapala, south side of Sola and west side of Anacapa seems most logical to me, but a funicular style route on State Street with a dedicated lane that can also be used for emergencies and overnight construction and delivery needs might be the most viable. Consultant dollars will necessarily be spent on the myriad infrastructure and right of way issues that will be part of the project. Early consideration of the needs of a significantly increased population, the fact that chapala and anacapa will likely grow in height over time, and out of the box consideration of the city’s assets from the development perspective – especially the parking lots – to fulfill needs as well as create significant income for the city should become core elements. Further visioning of potential development on private parcels to 2030/2040 especially the News Press property, and attendant zoning needs. The Press Room should be able to find a new home in this entire mix. If done well DTSB can be a world class location/destination.

  3. Kudos to Meagan Harmon for saying what most of us are thinking. She essentially said “what the F are we doing here?” And that’s my question exactly. Staring at pretty pictures is fun but it doesn’t really do anything. Make some actual decisions. Cars yes or no? You’re going to piss off half of the locals either way so just pick a side. The future is no cars so just do that so we don’t have to spend another million dollars on a consultant to re-do this in 10 years. Bring back the shuttle, most people love this. Incorporate a bike lane, whether we like it or not, they’re going to bike through it so do your best to corral them. Now let’s rubber stamp those decisions and then move forward with the pretty pictures.

  4. I will visit the Faulkner Gallery to see better what is on offer but from the coverage here shown I don’t see what we got for the bucks. Overhead perspective is not the issue. State Street is a on the ground pedestrian experience and right now it is ugly, disjointed, clumsy, and generally unwelcoming. It is definitely not unified as a “walk” in the tradition of famous paseos around the world. (I agree that a shuttle would help at a minimum.)

  5. It’s a consultative process with extensive community involvement. I think there is a need to envision both from the soft side (design) and the hard side (infrastructure/ right of way) before setting something into stone, so I like the way they are proceeding. There will be many differences of opinion as things proceed but if there is a focus on getting it done we will succeed. The council has an obligation to coalesce an effective process to move forward, and will need to act as a developer while managing the process and creating opportunities for stakeholders – the community, businesses, non profits and downtown property owners. The council should consider naming itself as the managing agency – not appoint a committee of others – to manage this process through vision and approval, and then hand it over to a for profit development firm at the appropriate point to execute the project as the city’s manager working with the stakeholders and operatiors going forward, including management of the retail/entertainment/community aspect of the region once it’s built.

    one person among many others who might be interesting to hear from about this project is Marge Cafarelli, the person who developed Alma Del Pueblo and the Public Market. I don’t know where she went since selling those projects. She is experienced in Santa Barbara and elsewhere with mixed use development (the entire downtown corridor will be a fusion of office retail restaurant and housing), has demonstrated capability to think ahead and out of the box, and execute successfully.

      • Absolutely true there has been some turnover which is not unexpected in such projects but I beg to differ with some comments and the characterization as a ‘mess’. It sold toward the end of the pandemic for not an insignificant amount. There are several core tenants who have been there for years, Rori’s, Fala Bar, Veloce, Empty Bowl, Corazon (which expanded both inside and out). If you ever attend the place you see that it’s actually quite busy at mealtimes during the week and all day long on weekends. wife and kids seem to like enough to go there on weekends to eat as often as Coast Village because everyone can get what they want and they can sit there and eat together, then go waste more money on State bc they like Brandy, Lulu, Urban, Volcom, Vans, Etc. They are very picky and we have to go eat in LA sometimes because of that. Shalhoobs is leaving on good terms – saying they may return – and the current pm owners are taking over the bar operation, a cash cow that also helps amortize cost of staffing for them I assume, so it looks like a very smart move for their own bottom line. Ms Cafarelli had a vision and risked building something new in SB that would only succeed if the public was willing to walk there. So I admire that and think that she, like several other people in SB, might have something worthwhile to add to the discussion of the development of the downtown corridor.

  6. The Shuttle is a MUST ! …but please don’t claim that it serves Amtrak, as for years now the shuttle stops running @ 6p.m. and the two evening trains “both” come in “AFTER” 6p.m. ….. 🙁
    Nice forward thinking designs….. Thank you to the designers who volunteered their efforts.

  7. This city should not be spending Trump-style money on all of these State Street ideas and future dreams until it takes care of the basics. Look at the terrible condition of many streets in the city: East Haley Street is one, Chapala Street is another, and there are many more. Basic maintenance is not being handled. Piss-poor management. But then, I am just a peon citizen.

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