The state of State: What Would it Take to Rescue Santa Barbara’s State Street?

State Street in Santa Barbara (stock photo)

By Sonia Fernandez, UC Santa Barbara

What would it take to rescue Santa Barbara’s flagging State Street? In some cases it might mean reconfiguring stores and storefronts; in others, creative use of existing space. It might also mean reopening sections to cars again. These and other ideas about the local economy were part of the Economic Forecast Project’s 2024 South County Economic Summit, an annual presentation on local, regional and national economic trends, hosted by UC Santa Barbara.

“I’m going to talk a little about inflation; that’s in the news right now,” said UCSB economics professor and EFP Director Peter Rupert, ticking off a list that included the Federal Reserve’s interest rates, the labor market and the possibility of a recession. With him were Radius Group Commercial Real Estate, Inc. principal Gene Deering, who updated the packed Granada Theatre on the state of Santa Barbara’s main commercial thoroughfare, and real estate developer Rick Caruso, who offered his perspectives on the successful establishment of retail and mixed-use destinations.

With a 14.86% vacancy rate from Gutierrez to Sola streets, a rate unchanged since 2019, State Street will have to evolve in order to recapture some of its former glory. It’s part of the ebb and flow of retail in Santa Barbara’s downtown.

“How (State Street) looks has evolved, and so has our retail climate,” Deering said. Downtown was the place to be for a long time, and then La Cumbre Plaza on Upper State siphoned some of the attention and traffic away. Downtown commerce came back with the 1990 opening of the Paseo Nuevo Mall, but the changes wrought by online retail drained away interest in storefronts and the commercial area has been fighting an uphill battle ever since.

vintage photo of State Street
Looking south down State Street in downtown Santa Barbara in the early 1900s (Photo Credit: Publichall – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
When State Street was in its heyday, it was because of local support, Deering said, so creating a place attractive and convenient to local residents and shoppers would have to be part of any revitalization plan. The 400 block of State is the site of “the most exciting project downtown in my mind right now,” he added, a 78-unit apartment project that could house around 300 people. Other properties on that block might serve more local uses as well.

The 400 block of State is one of several areas along the corridor that are being examined by the City of Santa Barbara for a redesign, in hopes that a refresh would revitalize the commercial climate. Smaller retail and mixed use could be the future, as large retail spaces, such as the closed Macy’s and Nordstrom’s department stores, have fallen out of fashion.

“The spaces that are tough to fill are the 2,500 to 5,000-square-foot tenants,” Deering said. “There just isn’t demand for that.” Money is the confounding factor for both Santa Barbara city and developers when it comes to revitalization efforts, in the forms of a projected operating deficit of $7.1 million for the city, and increased building costs and a federal interest rate of 5.24 to 5.5% for any borrowers wishing to develop commercial or residential spaces in downtown Santa Barbara.

The Federal Reserve isn’t likely to bring that interest rate down any time soon, Rupert said as he brought everyone up to speed on the general economic picture. Inflation has been trending upward, hence the high interest rate in efforts to cool it down.

Peter Rupert wears a suit
Peter Rupert is a Professor of Economics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Director of the Economic Forecast Project and the Associate Director of the Laboratory for Aggregate Economics and Finance at UC Santa Barbara. (courtesy)

“I will tell you, if we see one more bad inflation report coming up, there’s no way they’re going to cut rates this year,” he said. “You can bet on that.” Despite the drop in Gross Domestic Product from 4.9 two quarters ago to the most recent 1.6, he said, recession isn’t likely, and despite low job growth in the last month, there are still more jobs than there are unemployed people.

Locally speaking, however, Santa Barbara continues to lag behind the country in employment recovery since the pandemic. Job postings have declined steadily since 2022, and currently the majority of hiring is coming from the healthcare sector, Rupert reported.

Getting back to State Street, the economics of saving it come down to supply and demand, and understanding incentives, Rupert said. This topic was explored in the panel discussion featuring Caruso, best known locally as the developer of the Rosewood Miramar Beach luxury hotel in Montecito. Retail has been doing well on his properties, according to Caruso. “But you have to have the right retail,” he added.

“State Street is one of the all-time great streets in the world,” Caruso said. “You’ve got some of the greatest architecture, you’re adjacent to the Pacific Ocean, you’re in a beautiful community — how could State Street not be great?” Among the improvements he discussed with Rupert and Deering were a more streamlined permitting process and making places more appealing and convenient to access, a mix between local- and visitor-serving amenities, and some proportion of local workforce housing. Incentivizing businesses and developers to contribute to workforce housing and other local amenities would go farther than taxes and tighter regulations for developers, according to the panel.

One of the hottest issues right now in downtown is the closure to cars on some segments of State Street. Enacted during the pandemic as a means of doing socially-distant business, the closures and the ensuing parklets have been a boon to some, but are a tricky issue for those concerned about emergency access and as well as the general flow of visitors. The panel leaned toward exploring the possibility that opening some blocks back up to cars might tip more people toward visiting downtown; Caruso attributed the success of his properties to his team’s efforts to “reduce the friction that people go through” to visit them.

Still, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation; some areas struggle or flourish regardless of whether or not they have car traffic. Cars or no, Rupert said, the goal is to make it pleasurable and easy to visit State Street.

“The solution is not whether to close down the street to cars or not; it’s really to get more people living downtown and getting traffic to come downtown in terms of people,” he said.


Written by UCSBTheCurrent

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  1. Glad to see that the city council voted down the staff proposal to reduce free parking to 15 minutes. That would have been another nail in the coffin for downtown.
    Sounded like staff was only concern with keeping their jobs, looking for the citizens to pay the $7M revenue shortfall.

  2. San Francisco has a commercial vacancy tax that excludes downtown.
    So far only 74 landlords and lease holders have paid the tax.

    The question to ask though is why did they exclude their downtown

    Another question is what is to stop them from leasing cheaply on a month to month basis to a shell LLC?

  3. Caruso has the right perspective and experience, his viewpoint seems valid. World class location that needs a real executable vision of what it can become. Done well, and coordinated with funk zone and waterfront, it can be a a key element of a strong urban core, great place to live and an attractive destination with lots of housing, services, hotel rooms, and attractions. I think of La rambla in Barcelona and Ipanema/Copacabana/Leblon in Rio as examples. People are going to be living and visiting downtown. Bringing developers like Caruso into the mix could be critical to building tvision of what could be in addition to 700-1500 new housing units and redeveloped city parking lots. In addition to existing entertainment, museums and expand the mix: *Chumash and other Museums *eclectic restaurants and clubs *mor ’me galleries, maker retail, food drink, *higher education centers for ucsb/sbcc/Westmont/Antioch/csuci/ef institute *medical, wellness, fitnes/gyms, *greenspace/gardens *grocery stores, supermarket *outdoor music stage *roller skating. There are many possibilities I’ve left out. Done in a way that builds on the entertainment, food/beverage, retail, beaches and parks that are already part of it. A world class memorable destination that can accommodate us residents as well as people/families/groups from nearby California towns and all over the world.

  4. No on mentioned that our “new downtown” is the Funk Zone. Years ago this area didn’t drawn tourists or residents. It was mostly businesses for collar workers and artists. Today new stores are going in there old ones are moving there. It’s no wonder that State St. Is dying and the closure of State St. to cars is just helping speed up that process. I don’t shop downtown anymore and I know a lot of people that avoid it. It is more enjoyable to go to Goleta and Upper State St. I don’t need to worry about closed streets and can see the businesses.

  5. Make it a safe space. Many times I’ve been to state street and crazy people walking around yelling a screaming. People panhandling. Homeless sleeping on benches. No police presence. Get rid of the bicycles and scooters.

    The last thing I want to do is go to a destination and have stress.

    • As a long time returning tourist, I have stated these exact concerns over and over to no avail. I have e-mailed Mayor Rouse and sent letters to the editor in Noozhawk. The Mayor and William McFadden have both sent me e-mails in agreement and voiced their frustration with the current State of State Street.
      I have myself witnessed the Violent mentally ill and drug addicts bothering families and the lack of any police presence. You need to vote out your current councilmen and get rid of your absentee Police Chief. What is happening to your downtown and State Street, and the poor shop owners is a travesty.
      If you say this in the Edhat commentary, the usual suspects turn up to call you non compassionate or hateful toward the vagrant community. It is sheer insanity. it is civil society suicide and they don’t mind it. It is beyond me, maybe you could explain it. Then this trend toward non shopping or restaurant eating crowd of Bike riders, being more important than money spending locals and tourist is another head scratcher.

      • “absentee Police Chief”? Are you referring to EX-police chief Lori Luhnow?
        Are you saying our current police chief does not live in Santa Barbara? I’d sincerely like to hear about that.

        On Tuesday, August 30, 2022, the City Council appointed Kelly Ann Gordon as Chief of Police for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Her new role is effective September 19.

        Also, Mayor Rowse’s name is spelled R-O-W-S-E.

        • Perfect example. Instead of addressing the State of the street, the causes of the empty shops, and the fact there is druggies bothering people, YOU do spelling bees and other non sensical stuff. No comment on the non police pressense. Did I say anything about the new police chief living in SB? Why did you add that in your comment. How about just sticking to the concerns of reviving your slowly dying street? Sometimes I think the locals there do not care what happens to their own main thorofare. Maybe State Street is a mirror of its citizens. What a shame. The Street prior to covid was beautiful. Your councilman are not doing anything to reverse the decline and you are NOT helping!

          • Once again, a word salad, when actual words are present. Maybe more an alphabet soup?

            Why do cons who don’t live here feel the need to speculate and rant about things they really know nothing about, except as fed to them in their social media bubble?

          • Perhaps, Chalf, the comments were because if there were factual errors, the rest of the post is dismissed as likely to be incorrect. Starting: I have not seen what you have seen on State Street, but, admittedly, I now don’t spend much time there. A local, I find it depressing and sad — and nothing that I might say would influence the councilmembers. But, I do care – and did use to have enjoyable times there, windowshopping and strolling … and biking on the bike paths along the sides of the street.
            As for the police chief, you called her “absentee” which suggested she lived elsewhere. In apparent fact, she’s been extremely busy and has brought the SBPD almost up to full employment, it sounds like. They are now ticketing cars, an easy first step to bring in revenue, and, hopefully, will begin to be able to work with the human situation on State Street that requires revenue … and show the thoughtfulness needed.
            “Locals” do care but have found hard to be heard by the city council, I think. Probably most would not have supported paying $800K to an outside planning firm but, in general, we were not asked … and when opinions were given on questions, eg. the “water feature” and the hardscape at the historic de la Guerra Plaza, we and our opinions were dismissed and they plowed on ahead following in the steps of the city staff who knew best. That most of us did not think so was dismissed, if heard at all. One or two councilmembers, Friedman and Rowse, have timidly stood up against their fellows, but have been ignored. Another councilmember, Sneddon, has raved about the joys and wonders of the “promenade” that had few walkers promenading but who now are banished to the sidewalks. (The councilmember seems to be rethinking.)
            Indeed, it is a shame! What, specifically, would you suggest that Santa Barbarans do to reverse the decline of our downtown?

            • What I meant by her being ‘absentee’ was that she was not doing her job. There should be a police presence on State Street. Cops should be walking a beat. Their presence would deter bad behavior. They would have a hands on approach to some of the bad apples harassing shoppers and families both local and tourist alike. They could also be enforcing e-bike speed infractions endangering people using the promenade. Definitely the drug deals would go elsewhere/ These people and there are many of them, are not spending a dime on State Street, but making it very uncomfortable for people who are. There HAS to be civil behavior or if small bad behaviors are overlooked and ignored, sure as can be, the worse stuff will follow.
              Giulliani cleaned NYC up and quickly, by addressing what was deemed Quality of life’ crimes. This where it starts.
              I definitely suggest opening the street back up. How can commerce continue on a street that is closed? Why would say foreign tourist from a cruise ship, want to return when they see, loads of vagrants sleeping in doorways and the street smells of urine. The shop owners complained to no avail about this situation and it went unheeded. Anyone could see this was going to impact the shop owners negatively. How could it not? Make the street a desirable destination and it will come back. It is that simple. Keep giving more importance to the homeless and bike riders and your downtown will continue to deteriorate until its a ghost town. I try to be active in the conversation here because we LOVE your downtown. Nothing more than that. We have spent a total of 4 months on State Street if we add up all the 4 day weekends we have spent there now in the last 16 years. We miss the trolley. The great parades, the farmers markets on tuesday and thursday. The crowds. etc. Just want it to succeed is all. The Councilmen not making needed hard decisions and throwing away your tax dollars on ‘consulting firms’ is a joke! Why are THEY not making the decisions. much of this is rudimentary common sense.

              • “she was not doing her job” – gads, CHALF. Maybe you should write to her, like a man, and stop crying here about liberals.

                You offer no viable solution, merely complaints and demands for things no humane government will do. If we’re too liberal for you here, don’t let the door hit ya…….

              • When I hung out a lot on State in the 90s, there were cops walking the street in pairs, lots of them. Guess what, CHALF? There was still homeless people, mentally ill people, the ever present urine stench, gangs, fights, drunks, drugs, etc.

                People like you conveniently keep ignoring the CAUSE of the homeless/mentally ill problem: lack of government funding. Why? Because Republicans, not liberals, HATE to spend $$ on the wellbeing of others. It’s really as simple as that.

                So please, quit the whole blaming the cops thing. They can only do so much and you should be thankful they keep OUR town as safe as they do for tourists like you.

                • SAC – Starting with the 60’s and except for fiesta, the PD has not had enough cops to walk State Street in “pairs.” I doubt there have ever been “lots of cops” working State St., except during fiesta During fiesta many cops in the State St., area were brought in from an outside agency. The PD was lucky to get two cops in a beat car and this would probably occur if there was a rookie being trained.

              • “What I meant by her being ‘absentee’ was that she was not doing her job.”

                Well, that’s not true. But if you’re so smart (not) and want to campaign to take her job, go for it.

                “… Giulliani (sic) …”

                LOL! He’s a racist, a corrupt fascist, and a traitor and is about to go through some things.

                “rudimentary common sense”

                That’s what rudimentary intellects employ.

              • I find it really hard to believe you when you recount all the awful things you claim to have seen on State Street, especially since you are only an occasional visitor. I think you are exaggerating and fabricating a lot of it simply to adorn your woeful tales and gain attention, and for the life of me I can’t understand why you think writing letters like these to Edhat would have any effect whatsoever, including your suggestions as to whom to vote for.

                I live here and frequently walk downtown with my wife, as I have for several decades. I’ve never seen a drug deal on State Street, or if I did I didn’t notice because it caused me zero harm. I’ve never been personally harassed by a homeless person, nor been forced to avoid a business because of a homeless person, even though they have been here in significant numbers every single day since I moved here in 1980. In over forty years I have never once seen State St without some closed up businesses, and if you trust Ron Fink of Lompoc the rate has been steady for the last 5 years.

                Of course I’ve seen and smelled things that I wish I hadn’t, and of course I’ve been buzzed by an inconsiderate e-bike rider. (Before cars were prohibited people also used to jog, ride their bikes and skateboards on the sidewalk downtown.) I also miss some of my favorite businesses, like the family-run Beads of the Earth store, and every single book store, Joseppi’s and of course the short lived Onus Donuts. I’m aware of the problems. My point is that it’s really not much different than it ever was. It is not the calamity that you paint it. Your memory of what it used to be like is untrustworthy, as is most people’s. There have always been homeless people and panhandlers, late night drunks and pissed-on concrete. There have always been failing businesses, spots that accumulate garbage, and complaints about high rents. State Street has never been a trouble free paradise, and if you don’t remember these things from 40 or 50 years ago it’s because you chose instead to see the beauty and charm of our town which still exists, and I know you are aware of that because you keep coming back, yet all you seem to do is complain and tell us locals how bad things are here. You really don’t need to do that anymore, Chalf.

                • KIRK – 100%. Really, I think it’s more of the whole, Conservative-led fantasy about the “old days” and how it “used to be.” They love nothing more than to bemoan current problems as if they never existed in the past and “mourn” for days long gone when they could “go fishin’ with my dog and grandson” or whatever bs nostalgia they’re peddling.

                  State used to be even more “gamey” if you asked me, back when I used to hang out in the late 80s/90s. Way more cops back then too.

                  Cars being able to drive on State will do nothing, much like in the past, to improve business and “clean up” the street. It’s all wishful thinking and lamenting for a past that never actually was.

                  Hey, CHALF – when DID you first start coming to our town?

                • KIRK – 100%. Really, I think it’s more of the whole, Conservative-led fantasy about the “old days” and how it “used to be.” They love nothing more than to bemoan current problems as if they never existed in the past and “mourn” for days long gone when they could “go fishin’ with my dog and grandson” or whatever bs nostalgia they’re peddling.

                  State used to be even more “gamey” if you asked me, back when I used to hang out in the late 80s/90s. Way more cops back then too.

                  Cars being able to drive on State will do nothing, much like in the past, to improve business and “clean up” the street. It’s all wishful thinking and lamenting for a past that never actually was.

                  • I agree. It’s the “make America like I think it used to be again” mentality, or the rose-colored memory that’s always been with us.

                    Yeah I don’t see allowing cars on those 8 or 9 blocks as a solution to anything. I’m cool with having parades on State St and improving parklets, lots of things can improve without throwing the whole place back to auto dominance.

              • “Also if you look up Nationalist, it means pride of Country and making it first and foremost when it comes to other countries. How is THAT a negative.” – Did you also look up “white pride” and conclude it’s a good thing?

                “I think you are confusing Nationalism with ‘White Supremist’ which is a whole nother class, and a very very small minority” – No.

                “They could not go to enough of his high society bashes. Do you know Trump, by request by Rev Jessie Jackson, gave a rent free office space to his Ranbow Coalition in 40 WallStreet. Trump has never been a racist, nor would we follow him had he were.” – LOL, of course he’s not a racist. What media do you read/hear that? Ask him about The Central Park 5 and get back to us.

                “As for the idiots harrasing people on Stae St. Notice the cops never came when called. THAT is what I meant by an absentee PD nad your absentee Chief.” – They didn’t come because no crime was committed. That’s the whole point with the “First Amendment Auditors.” You can say offensive things, but can’t be arrested for it.

                “If your community had any spine, members of it would self police the street and not let people be harrased. Better yet, the people BEING harassed would stand up for THEMSELVES. .” – So you suggest what? Attacking people for their words? THAT is a crime.

                You cry about law and order, yet belittle us locals (the ones who serve and feed your ilk) for not assaulting law abiding idiots?

                You defend and make excuses for racism, yet call liberal ideas “excrement?”

                You live in a lie, C. A lie fueled by hate and ignorance. Keep your trash out of our town.

      • Yeah, David and Chalf – you guys about summed it up. The problem lies within the current City leadership and especially those who vote for them. Unfortunately, SB has a lotta ultra liberals who tolerate this stuff in their backyard. I don’t know why.

      • Why would you think that stating things would “avail” you of anything? Why would expect writing letters to people who agree with you would change anything? How would voting out current council members (or should we only vote out the men?), to be replaced with unknown persons, make things better? Santa Barbara has done that before … it doesn’t generally go well. What do you know about our Police Chief, aside from nothing at all, the same as what you know about anything else?

        Here’s an idea: pay your taxes and then some, support tax enforcement, pressure corporations and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share, stop voting for the party of grifters … then maybe the city could afford to hire more police.

        Also go have a word with your white nationalist friends in masks who are harassing people on State St.

  6. SB city council should not be making decisions about State Street. They keep on monkeying with it, throwing money around like the Fed, without being really involved. Go away city council and let State street be a street.
    How many of the city council persons have ever been small business owners?
    Open State Street to vehicle traffic and see what organically occurs.

      • SO dalgorf. I do know how the government works and it does not work efficiently because it uses other peoples money. The Fed could reference the federal reserve that has printed too much money in recent years or the Federal govenment. Government in general whether its city, county, state, federal spends tax payer money frivously. Government keeps on growing in size and rules. (What do you get from your government, other than infrastructure and protection from invading forces?) The best govenment is the least government. In this situation, the city council has hired pricey consultants, who may or may not know real world solutions. As I said before open State Street to vehicles; the government needs get out of the way and let the ‘”market” work.

  7. Ron Fink said it well in his May 15th Noozhawk piece. Although I haven’t done a complete analysis on his op-ed, I do know that what he describes actually happened:

    Ron Fink: The State of State Street; What Happened to the Good Vibe?
    May 14, 2024

    Twenty-five years ago, Santa Barbara’s State Street was still a destination for retail shoppers, people who wanted to window shop, and folks who wanted a good meal in a nice setting.

    When the street was teaming with foot traffic, stores were welcoming, and the restaurants crowded. It was a pleasant experience, well worth the 100-mile round trip from Lompoc for a day away from home.

    We felt lucky to have a trendy vacation spot just an hour away, and frequently made the trip just for lunch.

    We don’t make that trip any more, but why?

    There were several factors that contributed to the deterioration of this once gracious boulevard; most were caused by poor political decisions made by voters who elected people who had more consideration for vagrants, shoplifters, rabble-rousers, and other seedy distractions than they did for the shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and the public they served.

    First came the vagrants; a few eccentric individuals with their tattoos, guitars, colorful clothing, and carefree style started a slow migration up the street. They would “entertain” for handouts, and people would often drop some change into their collection box.

    It didn’t take long for these folks to become pests who became more demanding of the handouts, used doorways as their sleeping areas, and turned parking garage stairwells and public sidewalks into outhouses.

    The stench of the street began to overwhelm observers of the street scene, kill appetites, and foot traffic seemed to fade.

    When the very liberal Ninth District Court of Appeals determined that homeless people had a right to “camp” in any public space unless local taxpayers provided them with free housing and food, it got worse.

    Politicians formed committees and spread money helter skelter, but the more taxpayer cash they tossed at the problem, the worse it got. You see, what politicians can’t figure out is when you give things away more people will show up with their hands out.

    Then the Santa Barbara City Council stepped in to “fix the problem.” Many people who owned the businesses and buildings helped elect these folks, and they wanted some action.

    Businesses were losing business largely because shoppers didn’t want to wade through squads of the unwashed and dodge piles of residue on sidewalks. Without foot traffic, the restaurants lost diners.

    But the unhoused had more clout than either the elected officials or the taxpayers who elected them.

    To further exacerbate the issue, Sacramento politicians changed the laws regarding commercial thefts, vagrancy and vandalism, following a move by slow-thinking voters.

    Next was an all-out campaign to “reduce crime” by simply declaring the crimes were no longer illegal. There — no more crime, so stop complaining.

    What followed was predictable: Businesses simply closed because they were experiencing what retailers call “leakage” or losses from the cumulative impact of thefts that were too great to endure.

    Another factor, a result of the unexpected government reaction to a disease, was the rapid expansion of online shopping. Now you could get anything from a tube of toothpaste to a refrigerator delivered to your door — no parking hassle, no crowded stores, no wading through the homeless.

    Then there were the parklets, first allowed in public spaces to allow businesses to operate during the pandemic. Once the indoor eating restrictions were lifted, owners wanted to keep the parklets because they increased the seating capacity of their restaurants, and the public seemed to like them.

    This transformed sidewalks into enclosures, but also exposed customers directly to passing vagrants.

    Now the current transformation of State Street into a large sidewalk; no cars or trucks allowed, but in the interest of saving the earth, e-bikes are permitted in pedestrian friendly areas.

    Of course, the riders can zoom much faster than a human-powered scooter on these things, and pedestrians have been hit. Once again, this was predictable but not by the consultants or politicians who dreamed up this idea.

    With all that empty commercial space in Paseo Nuevo, some say the mall should be converted to affordable housing. This could take the property off the tax rolls and, of course, there is the loss of sales tax revenue.

    So, what happened to State Street? Political actions seem to have created more problems than they solved, and the vibe died.

  8. We need to attract businesses people will actually visit in 2024. First the location needs to be desirable for business owners – not closed to cars. An Amazon hub like the one in IV, and next to a parking garage, wouldn’t go out of business.

  9. Find a way to open State Street and make it affordable again for small business to flourish. Small business owners on Street and the surrounding downtown used to own their buildings, or at least had an affordable rent that enabled them to open and have a profitable operation. Over time, most of the property along State got bought up by a few very wealthy locals as well as out of town investors. It has become too expensive to have a small jewelry, home goods, cooking store, shoe store, clothing store, grocery or any regular small consumer store in the area. The investors, and the those in Sacramento who are doing their bidding, want to shove more and more rental apartments into their properties, under the guise of “affordable housing”. Which isn’t, as we have found. This isn’t Barcelona, where families gradually built housing for their growing families on top of their long-owned family businesses on the first floor.

    Locals are abandoning downtown SB for Goleta, taking their tax money with them.

    • Concrete evidence? lol. That’s rich. Where’s the concrete evidence for the other side of the debate? Answer – none. This isn’t a scientific experiment. It’s pure observation. How does State St. business and enjoyability look like now vs. back then? I know what I think.

    • Hey BASIC – asking for evidence of the other side isn’t answering the question. You know, whatabout whatabout whatabout and such….

      So tell us, Doc, how do you think cars being allowed to drive up and down State St. will increase sales in the local stores?

      No, you don’t get to ask for evidence that it won’t, that’s not how logical, mature and reasonable discussions work. That’s for 3rd grade playgrounds.

      So, what you got, Doc?

    • BASIC – “How does State St. business and enjoyability look like now vs. back then? I know what I think.”

      Do you think anything else (COVID, the economy, rents, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc) could had anything to do with that? No? Just the presence of cars, huh?


  10. Ah, yes, save State Street. So many people on Edhat saying so many things about saving State St. I’d love to know from you folks, what ratio of goods do you purchase online vs. from physical stores in our community?

    So maybe you can stop buying goods online and take, you know, real action to help support local business. Because it’s not banning cars that is causing the problems on State St. it’s the fact that businesses can’t survive there.

    • I would like to see some factual analyses about why businesses were successful on downtown State Street and now most are not or have left. Another part of Santa Barbara City, Coast Village Road, was not long ago struggling very hard; now it is not. Certain obvious differences, notably, the length, but what else?

      • Part of “what else” comparing Coast Village Road and State Street must be the relative affluence of the CVR patrons who like the convenience of restaurants close to their housing. But certainly driving CVR gives one a sense of understanding about what it offers whereas State Street is increasingly unknown so someone has to sort of explore and maybe never find what is wanted after walking up and down State Street.

    • It seems even this has somehow become political. Among the folks I know and the comments on Facebook I’ve seen, it’s pretty much along party lines – conservatives generally seem to want cars back, liberals generally don’t. Again, this is just anecdotal and of my observation, so take it or leave it. But, I started wondering, why?

      Covid? Could it be that the conservative outrage over Covid closures is fueling it? I keep reading comments like “covid is over, open it back up.” Is that why many support re-opening State to cars? Is it that nostalgia for how things were before the “liberal elite” closed down our country? Is it more a hatred of “closures” and what that stood for than a true economic-driven support for cars on State?

      Despite the lack of any real meaningful evidence, study, prediction, etc showing cars equals better business, so many are clamoring to “open it up.” Maybe that’s why?

      Still haven’t seen a single credible argument that cars will help while there’s sky high rents, online competition, city red tape, etc. Maybe there’s not.

      • Because they eschew rational thought. People that are crying about opening up State St. to cars have one position; “it was better before”.



        What has changed?

        Is everything now as it was five years ago other than the car closure?


      • I would say it’s more a matter of older vs. younger than conservative vs. liberal. In fact, there are not enough conservatives in SB to have any kind of political voice. Randy Rowse is certainly no conservative, yet he supports opening the street – as do most commenters on sites like NextDoor and even this one. As we should all remember, though, comments on social media are not representative of residents as a whole, any more than those bogus “surveys” that the City conducted secretly on their website without telling anyone. If the council cannot make a decision (or will not for fear of upsetting anyone), maybe it’s time to look for representatives who can actually make a decision. You and I may disagree with that decision (somebody will, for sure), but this years-long limbo pleases no one and makes business decisions for property owners impossible. Let’s make it a campaign issue this year!
        (PS – the reason people mention Covid is that the closure was originally an emergency measure to help businesses during the pandemic. As they point out, the emergency is over – whether you believe it ever actually really existed or not. People are not supporting or opposing the opening of State St. because they’re carrying some grudge against Covid closings. Some people like the way it is, some do not – stop looking to turn every single discussion into some kind of liberal/conservative thing. Jeez, we don’t get enough of that in national politics?)

            • “I would say it’s more a matter of older vs. younger than conservative vs. liberal. ”

              And it goes downhill from there. You make a lot of claims that are simply unsupported opinions. Why, other than tendencies to be conservative or liberal, would it be a matter of older vs. younger? How old am I? How, from that, would you guess where I stand on the issue? Your statement is irrational nonsense.

              “Randy Rowse is certainly no conservative”

              He’s the most conservative of the council members. He attracted the conservative vote in the mayoral election, failing to win a majority but he beat out the 3 liberal candidates because they split the vote.

              “yet he supports opening the street”

              Because of his little-c conservative views.

              “as do most commenters on sites like NextDoor and even this one”

              Oh, have you taken a poll?

              “As we should all remember, though, comments on social media are not representative of residents as a whole”

              You say this *immediately after* using those comments as a basis for your argument!

              “In fact, there are not enough conservatives in SB to have any kind of political voice.”

              How did Dale Francisco and Frank Hotchkiss get onto the city council?

              “If the council cannot make a decision (or will not for fear of upsetting anyone), maybe it’s time to look for representatives who can actually make a decision.”

              Yeah, throw the bums out. I’m sorry, but this is the political solution of the least intelligent people.

              • Thank you for taking the time to respond. Your overriding argument seems to be that opening or closing State Street is somehow a “liberal vs. conservative” issue, as the OP posited. How so? Where is the benefit to either from having the street open or closed?

                My whole point in bringing up NextDoor and this site was that social media comments are NOT representative; that reading them alone could lead to a conclusion that most people want the street opened – which is simply not true. One could also conclude based on the consultant’s “survey” that 90% of residents want it to stay closed – also not true. My point was that a scientific poll or an advisory election is needed before we can assume anything about what “the people” want.

                Forgive me if I am making an incorrect assumption, but you seem to be implying that the council wants the street closed but they are somehow being blocked by the lone wolf mayor. Nothing could be farther from truth. At least the mayor has expressed his feelings; his fellow councilmembers simply won’t say or do anything except “hire a consultant.” They don’t need his vote or support to do whatever they want. So what do they want? If you know, please tell.

                And when were Dale Francisco and Frank Hotchkiss elected? I was referring to today’s political landscape. Between district elections and the switch to even-year, partisan ballot voting, neither Francisco nor Hotchkiss could possibly be elected today. And if you’re putting either of those two into some group with Randy Rowse, all I can say is: “Wow.”

                As for “throw the bums out,” is it more intelligent to keep reelecting people just because they are incumbents? What do you think elections are for? By the same logic, will you be voting to reelect the mayor as well? When does it become “throw the bums out?”

                Again, thanks for responding. Looks like we’ll have to agree to disagree.

        • “Randy Rowse is certainly no conservative” – I’m not sure that’s true at all.

          And no, I’m not trying to turn it into politics, I’m just wondering aloud if that is what’s going on. As for people not having a grudge against Covid closings….. take a look at the comments on Facebook and here even. Plenty of “covid is over, open up everything” sentiments.

          Again, not saying that’s what it is, but to deny it exists is just not in line with what has been said by many people.

          • A large part of the problem is that no one knows what’s going on – certainly not the City Council. There is so much design work to be done once a decision is made, but the Council is determined to keep kicking the can down the road. Just make a decision, one way or the other.

            For what it’s worth, I am no conservative – but I think the upper blocks should be open, and the whole street should be usable for a trolley and parades. But I support keeping the primary bar and restaurant zone closed, with appropriate street reconstruction for a pedestrian mall. Whatever decision the Council may choose to make, however, I just wish they would make a decision.

            As for the mayor, I won’t speak for him, but I know that he was a Democrat for many years before becoming an Independent (as several of my friends have done out of frustration with the whole process). He attended UCSB at the same time I did, in the early 70’s. I know him. He may not be as liberal as some, but he is no conservative.

            • I think keeping the bar blocks closed is a great idea as well. Not sure all the blocks need to be closed, but definitely those should.

              Again though, I don’t see much harm in the way it is now. I do worry that a heavy handed Rowse will push for re-opening the whole thing to appease the Conservative voters, and yeah, there’s plenty here whether he identifies as one or not.

              Allowing cars to drive on State won’t help businesses boom, they didn’t before, there’s no reason to think they would now.

              The real reason for the failure of so many businesses is being ignored, as it’s contrary to what red-blooded “Mericans salivate over – capitalism. High rents, online competition, etc. It’s just what happens in a free market. Blaming that is inconvenient and will probably get me labeled as a “socialist” for even pointing it out, but it’s true. Not saying it’s good or bad, it’s just the fact of the matter.

              • I’m not saying businesses will boom, but to be fair, it is difficult to find long-term tenants when they don’t know what they’re moving into. It will never be a retail corridor like it used to be, but there are certainly customers here for something.

                Randy Rowse’s opinion is just that; he is one vote out of seven. If you think this is the mayor vs. the council, it is not. He’s feeling the frustration over their non-action, not disagreement with their position. Who even knows what their position is? If they want the street closed, they can do it. If they want it open, they can do it. They don’t need the mayor’s consent.

                Finally, this is truly not a liberal vs. conservative issue. The decision to be made does not favor either “party” or political philosophy. It is also not property owners vs. everyone else. It is simply a decision on how the future of State St. should look. It may not be easy, but that is what the council is elected to do. As Nike says, “Just Do It!”

            • Joe Manchin was a Democrat for many years before become Independent or whatever. Many southern Democrats became Dixiecrats and then Republicans over time. Please name one progressive or even liberal policy that Rowse advocates? At best he tries to find a safe spot in the middle.

  11. You fix this by fixing what you (voters and city council) broke in the first place….
    reopen the road. This gives PD their jobs back on State Street. Develop and implement business incentives to open up retail stores downtown. Have a once a month free parking day for shoppers/diners. Do not allow land owners to indefinitely shutter buildings on State Street. Do not build more hotels. Simple solutions….not rocket science

    • Ok, KNEIN, but HOW does reopening the road fix anything? The PD can still walk the beat and patrol on State whether it’s open or closed. Your other ideas are sound, but still…. no one can seem to provide any real viable evidence that allowing cars to drive on State will increase business. I’d love to see it, but so far it’s just been anecdotal or non-existent.

      • 2 things, then i’m moving on from this. 1: the road being closed makes it not a road. therefore SBPD can’t enforce CERTAIN laws and regulations.
        Reopening the road brings back a lot of our traffic. I work in a retail business on State street. Majority of all retail outlets down here have had a massive drop in foot traffic since the closing of State. This is fact. I attend business meetings with others downtown and hear their complaints and wishes as well. We want the road reopened and back to business as usual. I guess if you don’t work down town, live downtown, and commute around this place, you won’t get it.

        • Well, if it’s not a “road” then there are no cars and they can’t enforce moving violations…..because there are no cars so….yeah.

          Look, I get that there’s less foot traffic, but there are a LOT of factors involved so I still don’t see how cars driving by a business will fix all of them or increase foot traffic.

          Has no one provided an actual study or something other than unfounded speculation and anecdotes?

    • LOL dude. You know that SBPD already patrol on bikes right? Opening the road has no impact on PD ability to patrol and in fact patrolling on bikes and on foot creates higher awareness for the PD rather than being in a squad car with the windows rolled up.

      Seriously, how can you possibly say that PD don’t patrol on State St.? What world do you live in?

      Beyond that, please be the first Edhatter to sign a pledge that you will no longer make your purchases online, but will do it in physical stores–the abandonment of which is the majority of the problem.

      Beyond that, yeah, penalize owners for allowing their buildings to sit empty.

      • Online purchases are here to stay, obviously. That’s not even in the debate. State St. businesses have to offer stuff you can’t just order off Amazon – unique items and experiences – restaurants, bars, etc. But the basic problem is it’s pretty pathetic down there in terms of any enjoyable experience. It’s nasty. Look, the city council can debate this forever and waste a shit ton of money and time if they want at this rate. It’s pointless. Pick an option, and move on with it. Either cars or no cars probably won’t make much difference in restoring the vitality of State if it doesn’t get cleaned up first.

    • “This gives PD their jobs back on State Street.”

      Mopping up after all the car/bike car/pedestrian collisions, I guess.

      “Do not allow land owners to indefinitely shutter buildings on State Street.”


    • When will we ever learn that throwing money at the business community doesn’t work? Incentives did not keep the mall open for example. Businesses are not socially oriented operations. They will exist if they can make a profit and walk away when they can’t do so. Better to give cash to tourists as the get out of the buses or off the ships or leave the parking lots and tell them they have to spend it before they leave town or it will evaporate! At least they would make a market decision about what is worth the cost.

  12. Peter Rupert- please take a class on Tax Increment Finance districts (TIF) incentives for urban revitalization. It is astounding that this idea has not been studied or proposed for Santa Barbara’s downtown. The simple concept is that for targeted types of development (Housing, service retail (grocery store) , Business/ Tech Incubators, property developers receive a pause on property taxes for several years . That savings is equity for developers /owners of targeted types of revitalizing development- which pays off when the property tax on the enhanced value properties kicks in in the future. This mechanism has underpinned many significant downtown Renaissances… Peter please get up to speed on this- you have a platform

    • Thanks for the explanation, but isn’t something like this what Detroit has done? (Go easy on me, I’m very undereducated on municipal tax policies!) That city provided something like what you describe for all property owners and it turned whole neighborhoods into wastelands that no one was maintaining. I understand you are saying a TIF is only for certain commercial properties, but if businesses are given a pause on prop tax, what is their incentive and timeline to get their property actively earning again and help the wider community?

  13. Just returned from a great 3 nights in Santa Barbara, all of which was spent either on Stae Street or at the Wharf and Harbor.
    Excellent amount of crowds all over. Best I have seen it since prior to the pandemic. Best of all, the sidewalks were packed with people shopping. The restaurants were buzzing all along Stae, not just the 500 block, but all the way up to Victoria. Paseo Nuevo, many people in there and business was thriving.
    The new ryles governing the size and colors of the outside dining along with the pushing them back toward the cubs, made the street look tidy, neat and looked clean
    The lines for bikers are better dilineated keeping them apart from the street pedestrian strollers.
    The regular homeless unfortunates , who never bother anyone, were there but sparser and the element that was more aggressive, was gone.
    There are now beat cops on State Street. Saw them on the 500 block and a few cruisers parked right off State higher up. Stae was doing an incredible Memorial day business, both below the overpass where vehicles are allowed, and 500 and up where it is closed to traffic. Found that interesting.
    Overall we were just elated. Great weekend. Weather was amazing….as usual .
    Hit all our haunts. Staek at Holdrens. Great new England Clam Chowder and Shrimp and chips at the Fishhouse. Pizza at Olio Pizzaria…delicious, and being half Italian from NY…I am a pizza snob….LOL
    and last but not least, plenty of stops at Joes Cafe! Ever have a prime rib sandwich there? To die for!
    Sat night, the other streets were buzzing too. We were on Santa Barbara St and heard this great music coming from a dark side path. Wound up it was a charity event for a Hospice and the old group ‘Public Enemy’ was playing at the event. Man were they good.

      • Been not only complaining here. I have written e-mails to Mayor Rowse and the Mayor has written back stating I was ‘preaching to the Choir’ as many agree with my assessments. I have also corresponded with Bill McFadden who loves this town and was worried also about the increase in crime downtown. A Reporter, from Noozhawk attended some of the public council meetings , where she voiced all the concerns I had relayed to her when it came to things devolving downtown. She e-mailed me her actions and I thanked her.
        A noisy wheel gets all the grease. . Perhaps my constant input, had a small positive effect, as has some of the others who voice their heartfelt concerns on Edhat, Some of the commentors here reflexively take the side of the criminals, causing problems so they can pat themselves on the back self aggrandizing with moral superiority on Edhat. . Usually ultra liberal socialist are the ones content to wallow in what they created.
        Sac, did YOU spend any money on State Street lately? Have you given to the homeless there lately. We have! Less anger and negativity from you, and more positive actions would go a long way on State Street. Its Sad…Sac…

    • That’s nice, but it contradicts EVERYTHING you’ve ever said previously. Since this comment is based on actual facts, we can dismiss all the previous ones.

      BTW, I see that your comments go straight to “deleted comments” until EdHat approves of them. Wise decision on their part.

      • Nonsense. Everything was geared toward a positive outcome when it comes to your Great Street. perhaps the deterioration was to your liking? Sometimes I think some of you do not appreciate what you have, and do not have the wherewithal to do anything about it. All I know is, things are improving because people like myself see it for what it was becoming, and are making the right course corrections, instead of enjoying the status quo.

        • wait…you’re not actually taking credit here are you? I mean how else are we to interpret this: “All I know is, things are improving because people like myself see it for what it was becoming, and are making the right course corrections, instead of enjoying the status quo.”

          I cannot even begin to comprehend the stew of arrogance with which you baste yourself.

          • It’s beyond imagination, KIRK. Chalf truly is a rare kind of something. To hear him bitch and moan for months here and then have the gall to claim credit for SB being the same It’s always been is just… wow.

    • LOL! Really? So tell, EXACTLY, how your incessant crying about OUR town made it so your visit was pleasant? Did Rowse and McFadden shoo away the pesky mentally ill homeless people? Did they implement a new SBPD policy to put cops on the street? Did they change the outside dining areas? Did they call the locals and tourists to come out and fill up the street for you? Did they cook your food for you?

      No. Of course they didn’t. What you experienced was ACTUALLY how great downtown SB can be, all by itself, even without your letters to our mayor. Like so many others, you read ONLY what you see people complaining about online and then make up these wild fantasies about a town you don’t even live in. Then, you came and saw for yourself how nice it really is.

      Attempting to take credit for this is absolutely BAFFLING, yet not surprising, coming from you….

      And dude, “shrimp and chips” at the Fishhouse? You got a kid’s order of fried food at one of our best seafood restaurants and then suggest your a food “snob” of some sort? LOL you’re unbelievable.

  14. Chalf

    Thanks for coming to visit, spending your dollars here when you have so many other choices.
    I’m grateful to have lived here my entire life and am glad you enjoy SB too
    About 20% of our city operating budget depends on tourists paying transient occupancy taxes that are tacked onto their hotel bill. So thanks for being part of that. Our local government is forecast to have figured out a way to come up $7-10M short on this years budget so it all counts. You ate at restaurants and I’ll bet you tipped well for good service. That 15-20% goes straight back into the local economy, often within hours of closing. Visitors like yourself spent $2.24B here on the SB South Coast in 2023 and I appreciate it.

    • Edney
      Thank you for your appreciation.
      Your city is just amazing. It is really unique. I wish I could afford to live there. But suffice to visit every chance we get. It is our pleasure to spend our money there and support the local community. The shop owners and workers.
      Having worked for tips my whole career, A Blackjack dealer in Vegas, I always tip no less than 20% As should others. Waiters and waitresses are not paid well and it is tips that they support their families.

      My wife and I will always be a part of State Street with our continued visits and tourist dollars and will love every minute of it. The town is beautiful, More so, for us, than any of the other beach towns, and we have been to almost all. Once again, thank you for the kind words.

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