Three Designs Proposed to Revamp the State Street Promenade

By the edhat staff

The State Street Advisory Committee reviewed three options provided by consultants to redesign the State Street Promenade.

The consulting company, MIG Inc., is reportedly receiving $800,000 from the City of Santa Barbara to hammer out this remodel, but attendees at the May 24 meeting say they didn’t nail it at all.

The Advisory Committee and community members met in the Faulkner Gallery at the Santa Barbara Central Library for over three hours and listened to representatives from MIG.

During their full presentation, they stated the most frequent community concerns centered around emphasizing pedestrians on State Street, flexibility and adaptability, safe bicycle access, diverse public seating, space for art/performances, and family friendly. There also must be emergency vehicle access and ADA compliance.

MIG classified State Street in three districts; Arts (1300-1000 blocks), Civic/Celebration (900-700 blocks), and Entertainment (600-300 blocks). They then explained their three options for the enhanced thoroughfare are: Flat and Flexible, Multi-Modal, and Hybrid.

1. Flat and Flexible

“Flat and Flexible” option (courtesy)

This option consists of a curbless street from the 500-1200 blocks, that is generally closed to cars and maximizes activation and programming. This means the includes of spaces like interactive art, cafe seating, outdoor kiosks, and designated play areas. 

When the street is open this could offer a one-way vehicle lane for commercial and emergency vehicles, and/or shuttles. 

The renderings of this option depict a separated bicycle lane, outdoor dining, increased pedestrian walkways, and play areas. 

2. Multi-Modal

Multi-Modal option (courtesy)

This format includes a curbed street from the 500-1200 blocks that is generally open to cars allowing for increased transportation options. 

A one-way vehicle lane will be available throughout with the ability for curb extensions in some areas to allow for a variety of uses such as outdoor dining or art installations.

This design will be primarily open to vehicles and shuttles, with a separated bicycle lane on the street.

3. Mixed / Hybrid

Hybrid option (courtesy)

The third and final option is a mix of the first two and shows the 500-600 blocks with the multi-modal design, the 700-900 blocks with the curbless “flat and flexible” design, and the 1000-1300 blocks back to the multi-modal. 

The 400 block would separataly have a two-way street with some curb extensions and the 1300 block would retain curbs with the option of one-way or two-way vehicle traffic. 

The bulk of the frustration seemed to concern bicycles and pedestrian safety with some community members stating they want cyclists off State Street entirely and re-routed to Chapala and Anacapa Streets. While MIG presented this  their presentation as “not recommended,” City staff reiterated it was not an option due to traffic management.

The State Street Advisory Committee will discuss the options and transpoortation suggestions at their next meeting. The design concepts will continue to undergo evaluation and edits throughout the summer with the final plan expected to be completed in the Fall and submitted to the City Council late 2023/early 2024 for approval.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

What do you think?


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  1. 3rd/hybrid seems the only logical one to appease everyone, keep traffic flowing, commuters commuting, peds walking. Now they just need to invite businesses to open up on State street, fill the 5 per average vacancies on each block with quality retail and the rendering will become a reality. The full closure is pointless and the 3 districts that the outsiders names is laughable. Civic and celebratory? I work on one of those blocks, there is no civic or celebratory anything on Carrillo to Canon Perdido, nor Figueroa.

    • Those bench-like dividers/curbs are asking for trouble. We do need some seating so that tired tourists and elderly locals can rest while shopping, but we should learn from other cities and install the kind that only allow one person to sit or perch on and then the seat flips to vertical when one stands up. Isn’t that what the fancy consultants should tell us? How to learn from other cities that have already tried things like this?

    • There are not enough benches for people to sleep on! I think it’s time we make it official and devote this segment of state street to the poor people we like to pretend are suffering from nothing more than high rents. Instead of designing benches with obstacles on them to stop people from laying down, we should build sleeping benches along state street. Perhaps the city could even start taking over some of the vacant buildings to provide more services to the folks who its trendy to refer to as “unhoused.” One could practically trip over bodies the way state street is at night these days, some thoughtfully designed sleeping areas could really spruce things up and help manage the growing population of zombies, I mean “unhoused” that is taking over.

  2. Note how many people are dropped into the rendering, it is not reasonable to expect that many people on each portion of a block for the entire 10 block promenade outside of Solstice of Fiesta parades. I’m afraid the city is going down a path of “If we build it, [we hope] they will come”, which hasn’t worked well at all in other cities citied by the MIG consultants.

  3. SB City needs to stop spending money they dont have at this time, and return State Street to pre-covid and let the cars and bikes cruise both directions. Locals and Tourists will see the retail and restaurants and perhaps go to a parking lot and stay a while , spend some money. Why did SB make all the parking structures along State Street? If SB City ever saves enough money or gets a grant then they can again talk about this promenade. Sad but just like the 101 underpasses all slanted no flat place to hang out, these designers need to think about how to manage by design the homeless who will want to camp or panhandle.

  4. The curbless design seems appealing—kinda like Disneyland—but what about drainage? We need good drainage, and seating that cannot be slept on. Is that a children’s sandbox on the lower left of option 2? Seriously? Who’s going to keep that clean and dry? These consultants seem out of touch with reality.

  5. Why in each of the three are the bike lanes so much wider than the other, the motorized vehicle lane? If you look at the bike routes throughout Santa Barbara, except for the beachway at certain times of the day, they are rarely used. Cota Street, for instance, with all those white posts preventing car parking, sits unused most of the time. And one thing that most people have stressed over and over again is how the central downtown street should have the parades we used to have. The car and bike lanes are too narrow for Solstice and Fiesta parades. ….This whole process has been sooooo disappointing.

    • Since you bring up unused space Bird, by having the actual street closed to vehicles, most of it goes unused most of the time, and this is the most prime square footage in the heart of our downtown. Very very rarely are there so many people walking State that they couldn’t have been accommodated on the sidewalks as was done pre-covid. In SB we already have many wonderful trails, parks, and an oceanfront with the beach, boardwalk and greenbelts – many wonderful places to meander/stroll and spread-out from the crowd – our commercial core should focus on being conducive to commerce.

  6. Who would put a sandbox on State St. and expect kids to be playing in it? Wow, talk about clueless. Begs the question, who is the most clueless?
    a. The Consultant who drew this up
    b. Our current City Staff in charge of all this stuff
    c. The SB citizens who are paying for all of this
    I have my choice and it’s c, but that’s just me, and I live in Goleta and rarely go downtown since it went downhill a long while back.

  7. I confess that I haven’t been paying attention. Were the consultants given a cost limit? Do they not understand that we have problems with transients downtown? I’m sure we can glean some good ideas from their work, but from a quick look, it seems like they paid little attention to the realities of a downtown on planet Earth in 2023. Curbs or no curbs, a bike lane on one side and either a restricted lane for shuttles only, or a one-way lane for all vehicles. How much did we pay for this? I’m usually not so negative, but come on.

  8. I am so surprised by the suggestions to return State Street to the way it was pre-Covid. Do you remember what it was like then? On any given weekend there were practically tumbleweeds rather than any pedestrians, no one wanted to be on State. Cruise the pedestrian-only promenade today and you’ll find a bustling, lively scene (at least from Cota up to Carillo). It’s my opinion that opening that stretch back up to vehicles will destroy that energy.
    I’d be curious to see business on State Street by the numbers. How are shops, restaurants, and retailers revenues now compared to pre-Covid? Anecdotally, I think there are far fewer empty storefronts than before but I admittedly have no data on that.
    Before and after vacancies and business revenues could sway my opinion on keeping it pedestrian only. I’m sure there’s a half dozen other interesting data points to look at too. Is anything like that being reported anywhere?

    • JJ – 100% agree. It’s bizarre that people think there are somehow less people on State than back when it had cars. Did tourists stop visiting SB because we closed State to cars? Of course not. The businesses have been doomed for far longer than just the last 2-3 years. I go downtown far more often now solely because of the open streets and seemingly (at least to me) less concentrated gutter punks. They have more room to spread out now so you don’t always have to walk past them.
      If there is some direct evidence of the lack of cars causing woes for the State street businesses, I’d be interested to see it and might change my mind. I see no lack of foot traffic now that it’s pedestrian and bike only. Yeah, I’m from Goleta but am down there pretty often. I see what I see.

    • Based on pedestrian counts, more people aren’t coming downtown now with the promenade than prior to the pandemic. Ask any experienced commercial retail broker in town and they will tell you retailers don’t want to be on a closed street. If you want more retail vacancies, keep it closed to vehicles for the entire mile +. The examples MIG gave of other cities with promenades were not examples of successes but failures, they all were bigger cities, with significantly smaller promenades, and higher vacancy rates. Select a block or two AT MOST, might be feasible, but they already did that when they built Paseo Nuevo remember?

  9. We need cars to be able to come thru State Street to add life!
    Have you seen what they have done in Pismo Beach and Paso Robles? Lanes for cars and slant parking on both sides of the street. It’s hopping plenty of vitality and no empty storefronts. Businesses are challenged because of the current mess.
    Bikes don’t need their own lanes they can share the road and are subject to the same vehicle codes.

    • Good point: if the speed is kept low, bikes should be able to share the road with cars. They all need to stop at nearly every intersection, and watch for pedestrians, so maybe a dedicated bike path is not crucial in the core downtown area. I’d like to see well regulated cars and bikes, with plenty of space for pedestrians.

  10. Put it back the way it was. Like it was pointed out; those types of designs only really work when there is a populace living downtown IN the buildings. Boy, city officials really no how to waste money on impractical solutions to nonexistent problems. It’s the high rents and low foot traffic that are the issues ; also, State St. needs more entertaining venues. (Like Battle Axe, only with photos of politicians, local landlords, and developers as ‘Targets’.)

  11. Check out the Thrid Street Promenade in Santa Monica. It took the City of Santa Monica a few iterations to figure it out. Fifty years ago, it was all bricked – no vehicles. Then they opened it to cars, repaved to roadway, put sidewalks in. That turned out to be unsuccessful, so they closed it to traffic again (left the sidewalks and paving ’cause they had already spent the money). It is always bustling and the retail spaces are full. There is no bike lane. Santa Barbara has bike lanes on parallel streets to State St. Downtown should be for walking, not dodging people on bikes. If commerce can be lured back into downtown, the homeless-on-the-street problem will lessen. This is not speculation, it is Urban Planning.

  12. Why present a program that is not recommended by staff or spent time developing it yet to the city Council? Send boxes and play areas on State Street for the homeless. No one is coming downtown to shop retail because there is no retail currently. So the solution to solving the retail problem downtown is having wider sidewalks and multimodal use of State Street that’s going to bring people downtown?
    Where is the funding for this project coming from? There is no longer a redevelopment agency in California.

  13. If the city is truly looking for solutions to bringing paying customers back downtown, then why are they now trying to ‘again’ raise the parking rates AND shorten the time for free parking ??? We used to love going downtown, always our 1st choice, but now we go to the movies, meals or shopping where there is free parking…. in Goleta or La Cumbre, Loreto Plaza etc.

    • VOICE – if closing it to cars is what caused vacancies, how do you account for the decline in retail and resulting vacancies that took place pre-covid? I’m open to evidence, but I just don’t see anything indicating that tourists stopped spending money on State because they couldn’t drive on it.

    • Which “retailers don’t want to be on the promenade?” Are you saying businesses are closing because the cars are gone? Or, are no new businesses filling up vacancies because the cars are gone? I’d be interested to hear from store owners why they’re not opening shop on State and from those who recently (last 3 years) closed their businesses.
      I think a lot of it is the same reason State has always suffered: ridiculously high rents coupled with lack of demand for brick and mortar retail shops.
      Those shops that are open are generally pretty expensive, and understandably so given the high rents. So, until prices come down (rent drives this) and availability goes up, there’s not much reason for locals to ever shop downtown.

    • 1) covid, actually our response to covid, created the most vacancies, 2) keeping it closed to cars further exacerbates vacancies as retailers don’t want to be on the promenade 3) prior to covid we were at the tail end of a shift in retail with the adjustment of increased online shopping for typical goods. It took time for retailers to adapt to create a more experiential shopping experiencing on focusing on goods people wanted to buy in person rather than online. Most shopping still occurs in person rather than online 4) many of the vacancies pre-covid also to do with some landlords price expectations and the ever increasing costs of upgrades and code compliance issues required when bringing in a new tenant. Before covid downtown was far from dead, and while there were sporadic vacancies, businesses were thriving.

    • Keeping it closed to motor vehicles will further exacerbate our vacancy issue. Santa Barbara simply will not ever allow the building densities required to support a mile long pedestrian promenade. All street level retail would need 10 stories of apartments above it to make the longest-in-the-nation pedestrian promenade successful.

    • Be interesting to see what, if any, air quality improvements there have been inside those businesses on State. I’d think employees and their employers would rather be breathing cleaner air. With all the cruising on State, there was a lot of idling engines just feet away from restaurants and shops. Yet another reason to keep as many cars off of State as possible IMO.

  14. Not one comment about attracting housing to the Downtown. It is remarkable that the consultants hired by the City and City Planning are so clueless as to the primary element of a vibrant , safe and economically thriving contemporary downtown- Housing. AIA Santa Barbara has been advocating this since 2017. Seems like it is worth a try to focus on something that would energize and revitalize the area. Pretty pictures of sidewalks do not address the issue of the decline in Downtown. How can more housing be developed in Downtown SB? By creation of a Tax Increment Finance District that provides financial incentives to developers of housing, and requires a percentage of affordable units in return for suspension of property tax for a typical financing period of 15-20 years. Ultimately the long term property value and tax revenue from successful housing and related services will be a much better deal for the City.

  15. This is just putting very expensive lipstick on a pig. Open it back up to cars. Cars were not the problem. How many of us old time sb folks miss driving up state streetWork at getting stores back here that we can actually shop in. Who else sits home nd orders cloths online since there are no places to shop here. I’m sure you could have spent the $800.000 on better things.

  16. The “valuable” but vacant commercial real estate along downtown State Street should be reappraised at its actual value and all repurposed through public acquisition, then redeveloped in such a way that the property can serve the needs of a modern Santa Barbara. Times have changed and the downtown area of State with all of its vacancies and vagrancies no longer can serve the commercial needs of Santa Barbarans.

    • There are not that many vacancies, you make it sound much worse downtown than it actually is. And where would the city get the funds for all this acquisition and development? If they would just lighten up on the building requirements, design review requirements, storm water, requirements, height restrictions, density restrictions, even through in some property tax breaks private developers will build more housing.

  17. As a small business owner, I can say that the rent needs to reflect the amount of customers and what they spend. In a high foot traffic area, of course the rent can be higher, at least if you have customers. This is absolutely not the case in SB. So many people now shop online, and expect the cheapest possible prices, that a store is kind of absurd, unless you’re a destination boutique or restaurant or gallery or what-have-you. It’s simply not feasible. The costs of running even a simple store, and staff, insurance, taxes, etc, make it unrealistic. And if you are a destination then you can be in a much cheaper area, than State preferably in a big city, and people will come to you. The old days of crowds ambling along browsing are long gone. I know people will argue this, but it’s true. You might get a few tourists, maybe for t-shirts, or local souvenir tchotchkes, but no one can survive on that. If Santa Barbara actually was serious about revamping downtown, it would take an actual effort to promote State as a destination, meaning maybe California businesses, and that includes from LA, because SB doesn’t have enough. I doubt it will happen because this whole thing seems intractable, and it’s same tired arguments over and over. People are never coming back to State St without a huge effort by the City to promote it. And advertise it. Support it. Actually make an effort to support small businesses. The 1970s and 80s are gone.
    Right now downtown is a mess, and the big controversy is still about cars or no cars. It’s ridiculous. And it’s such a basic thing. How do less mobile people get around, to start? Meanwhile, the caliber of businesses has decreased, while ebikes and drug users/panhandlers run rampant.
    Does anyone remember I Magnon? Saks? Hunts? Earthing? Even JC Penny? And so many others. All long gone, because they can’t make any money.
    And yes, I own a store, (27 years) and it’s a destination store for essential oils and perfume ingredients, but we have to be in a big city. I had hoped a few times to open in SB, but there is no way. The numbers just aren’t there. You pay high rents but get nothing for it.

    • We need more actual business owners to weigh in on this issue. You are the ones who will or won’t run the businesses that attract the shoppers. We also need housing above the shops, which will encourage the range of shops to be more varied (to serve everyday needs as well as tourist needs).

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