By Robert F. Else
In the 60’s and 70’s, in response to increasing traffic jams and the desire to revitalize areas whose economic success had waned for various reasons, many mid-sized cities developed pedestrian malls. According to Wikipedia, in 2009 there were at least 75 pedestrian malls in the U.S. Most people know about the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, VT., but there are many others. Wikipedia has links to pages about more than 50 U.S. malls in a good article at bit.ly/2MMbQvz.
The most astounding conversion many thought impossible was Times Square, the “crossroads of the world,” closed to vehicles on a trial basis on Memorial Day 2009. Although opposed by many who feared Carmageddon and decreased business, the former river of cars became a river of people, and the pedestrian plazas became permanent in February 2010. The economic and quality-of-life benefits continue, heralded even by those who originally opposed it. The engaging 2016 book “Streetfight” by Janette Sadik-Kahn covers this and other urban innovations, and includes the mistakes as well as successes in these projects.
But not every pedestrian mall is successful, and many were undone and reverted to vehicle traffic. According to one graduate thesis, a key factor in the failure of St. Louis’s 14th Street Mall was that cross-streets were interrupted, stifling the traffic grid, even though the mall was only 2 blocks long. But the success of many other, longer malls shows that traffic flow problems can be overcome; many successful plans include one-way streets parallel to the main mall, something Santa Barbara already has in place.
Many successful pedestrian malls started as small trials. One of the main lessons from “Streetfight” is that although careful planning is important, taking action and assuming some risks are crucial elements in moving forward. There are many ways to imagine various sections of State Street filled with pedestrians enjoying the shops, arts, dining, and interesting places to sit, relax, and people-watch; the absence of 2 lanes of cars creeping to the next stoplight would make the scene even more enjoyable. In our existing paseos, we already have a taste of how pleasant these oases can be. Could State Street be like this?
Editor’s note: Please scroll down for an additional article on the subject, “Reimagine State Street,” and additional photos.
Meet Judi Shor and Steve George. Together, they chair New Town Goleta Safety, a volunteer citizens’ group dedicated to improving pedestrian safety for people of all ages in the area of Calle Real and Fairview Ave in Goleta. Dr. Judi is a senior care clinical pharmacist with the Center for Successful Aging and Steve is a retired regional communications manager who moved to the Encina Royale senior community from Portland. They crossed paths in 2013, just when COAST was active in Encina Royale organizing meetings and walks under our Safe Routes for Seniors program. Since we were all interested in the same thing, we decided to work together.
Encina Royale is a retirement community of 360 units. People move there thinking they have all kinds of amenities within walking distance – banks, drug stores, supermarkets, restaurants, movie theaters. And they do, but walking on Calle Real and Fairview is often unpleasant or dangerous, especially for an older person. It’s a shopping area built for cars. Undeterred, Steve set about changing this and teamed up with Judi to form “New Town Goleta Safety” in 2013.
The first few years were often frustrating. They heard about so many reasons why things couldn’t be done, and if they could, they would take a very long time. “Many of our constituents are 80 or 90 years old, and they shouldn’t have to wait another five or ten years,” lamented Judi. Steve and Judi, however, were persistent. They met repeatedly with Public Works staff, City Council members and City Council candidates and attended numerous public meetings. New Town Goleta Safety filed countless letters and e-mails, all well researched and well argued.
And slowly, things started happening, more than anyone would have thought possible. There will soon be a sidewalk on N. Fairview Ave at the Goleta library. The crosswalk on Calle Real and Kingston Ave, where two seniors have died in the last ten years, will be fitted with a HAWK signal, similar to the one at the Goleta Valley Community Center. There will be a midblock crosswalk on Calle Real between Encina Lane and Kyle’s Kitchen. Judi considers these two things their greatest accomplishments -to date. She and Steve organized a Transportation Forum at Encina that drew over 200 participants. COAST was present along with many other organizations.
For the future, Steve and Judi are full of plans. They want to see a Senior Zone designated around the Encina Royale complex, similar to a school zone. It’s a trailblazing new idea pioneered in San Jose. And they are embarking on a major campaign to make the Fairview shopping center more pedestrian friendly.
And they are campaigning for a crosswalk at the Fairview Center and the freeway bypass ramp where junior high school kids now cross, taking their lives into their hands every day. COAST will be supporting New Town Goleta Safety in any way we can.
By Alex Pujo
Barry Siegel, a retired aerospace analyst and founding member of COAST, passed away on September 20, 2007. He was 74 years old.
Barry and wife Martha moved to Santa Barbara in 1993 at a time when Caltrans was planning to widen Highway 101 south of Milpas with a barren, off-the-shelf concrete corridor. Beyond aesthetics and environmental impacts, the project shocked the public by the obvious absence of regional transportation and land use policies beyond outdated, automobile-based standards.
“If we need six lanes now, when will we need eight?” As community groups peeked suspiciously at intimidating stacks of environmental and engineering reports, Barry took to them like fish to water. From then on, and for the next 14 years, Barry became Santa Barbara’s go-to source for data unspoiled by politics or bias.
Looking over the shoulders of traffic engineers, Barry exposed the politics behind transportation plans, population projections and traffic models. Barry distilled technical mumbo-jumbo into simple concepts describing the elaborate maneuvers that decide where transportation funds end up. Barry had the ability to explain the inexplicable.
Barry “followed the money” to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), “the cinched point in the hour glass”. State and Federal money goes on the top, but it must pass this political bottleneck in order to reach agencies at the bottom. Thus “The Siegel Report” was born, documenting every SBCAG meeting from 1993 to 2007.
Barry participated in every ad-hoc transportation committee in the South Coast. His reports shifted decisions about transportation funding from the domain of Public Works directors, City Managers and Traffic Engineers into the public arena. He moved the conversation from the basement into the living room.
As part of the “101 Task Force”, Barry was influential in the funding of several multi-purpose projects in the corridor, including the redesign of Summerland’s frontage road, the Ortega Hill bikeway bypass, and the North Jameson bikeway that now bears his name.
To honor Barry’s memory, COAST established an annual award to recognize significant contributions to Santa Barbara County in the field of transportation.
Below is a selection of Barry Siegel Award recipients throughout the years:
We are proud to announce our new and improved 2018-19 Sponsorship Program in time for our annual Summer Solstice event. We have added a new entry level sponsorship program and additional gifts we want to offer to our sponsors. Please take a look below and contact Joanna Kaufman, Program Director, with any questions or to become an event sponsor (email@example.com).
Personal Event Sponsorship ($100)
By Barry Remis (contributions by Andie Bridges)
The months of January and February saw the completion of two milestone Active Transportation Program (ATP) projects in Goleta and Santa Barbara, and they both bring improved access and a safer route for area students to and from their schools. Here we celebrate the new Hollister Avenue Class I MultiUse Path and the even-newer Cota Street Buffered and Protected Bike Lane!
A safer, off-the-road pathway along the Hollister Avenue corridor from Pacific Oaks Road to Ellwood Elementary School has long been a vision of the City of Goleta and area residents for cyclists and pedestrians young and old, as they walk or roll to and from school, parks and retail centers. With only a narrow sidewalk along the southern side of Hollister Ave., kids who rode their bikes to school had but two choices: either ride on the sidewalk or in the Class II bike lanes painted on the side of the 45-MPH roadway. Neither option was particularly safe. For years, the City needed a solution.
Enter the Class I MultiUse Path: A 14-foot wide concrete bike/walkway—adjacent to the road on the ocean side—that is physically separated from the street by a 5-foot landscaped buffer. (Wherever possible, Class I separated bike paths are the preferred bikeway facility identified in the Goleta Bike/Ped Master Plan.) But unlike many other Class I Multipurpose paths where bicyclists and pedestrians share the same space, the Hollister Class I MutiUse Path is different.
Here, the paved pathway is graphically delineated by two sections: a 4-foot pedestrian travel lane close to the road and bus stops, and an 8-foot bi-directional bike travel lane. A 2-foot shoulder is also provided to mark the edge of the right of way. At all intersections along the corridor, new high-visibility crosswalk treatments have been installed with colored patterns that continue the bike and pedestrian travel sections while crossing the street. New signage along the MultiUse path and on side streets advises motorists and path users to watch for crossing traffic and where on the path they should travel, and new stop signs have been installed for path users at every intersection.
The Hollister Class I MultiUse Path was constructed from May, 2017 thru January, 2018 using a $1.6 million ATP grant awarded from the state. Traffic along Hollister Ave. and side streets was disrupted and motorists’ patience was tested, but like all good projects, this was a temporary setback. Before the path striping, signage and crosswalk treatments were applied, residents had concerns regarding the safety of intersections and students traveling along the not-yet-completed pathway. There are still some final modifications needed, including removal of a few old utility poles in the middle of the bike travel lane, once wires are transferred (by Frontier Communications) to new poles placed off the pathway.
Early in January, COAST’s Safe Routes to School team was pleased to partner with the City of Goleta and Ellwood School to provide educational training on the safe use of the MultiUse Path for all Ellwood students at every grade level. Safety presentations were followed by actual walks along the pathway for live, hands- (and feet-) on experience using the new path. On January 23rd, the City held a community meeting at Ellwood School where Public Works staff and COAST presented to the public and residents were able to ask questions and voice concerns. The project team took note of suggestions for future improvements.
Just over a month in on the completed project and it’s evident that use of the Hollister Class I MultiUse Path is booming with more kids, parents, strollers, seniors and cyclists than ever before, enjoying the much-improved safety of this new Active Transportation facility! Ned Schoenwetter, Ellwood School Principal, notes that, in addition to helping promote health and safety, the path “is also strengthening our community, as neighbors walk and ride together.” And the path’s merits have already been recognized at high levels with the project recently being named ‘Santa Barbara County Project of the Year’ by the S.B./Ventura branch of ACSE (American Civil Service Engineers). While there remain opportunities for improvement, overall progress is notable. “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be remarkable,” said COAST Instructor Nancy Eckert. “This project is absolutely remarkable.” We encourage everyone to get out there and try out the Hollister MultiUse Path!
Meanwhile, the 2016 update of Santa Barbara’s Bicycle Master Plan has officially spawned its very first project as Cota Street just received in February the City’s first Class IV Protected Bike Lane! Running one-way southbound along the West side of the street from Milpas to Chapala Streets, the new bike lane uses new striping and vertical delineators to create a ‘protected’ bike lane, buffered from motor vehicle traffic by a 2-3 foot divider marking, similar to the bike lane buffer on Bath Street, Meigs Road and Shoreline Drive.
But what makes the new Cota bike lane stand apart from other S.B. bike lanes are the new cylindrical delineators placed every 25-30 feet from Milpas Street to Santa Barbara Street. These reflective vertical posts act as a physical divider so that cyclists not only have their own lane of travel, but can ride with an added sense of safety knowing they have that extra 3-dimensional buffer between them and motorists. The bike lane and delineators are not present in front of Santa Barbara Junior High School, where a 3-minute drop-off and pickup zone still exists for parents to load and unload students.
Like others in the Bicycle Master Plan Update, this project was not without contention. To accommodate the bike lane, many previous parking spaces were removed, and several stretches of curb are now painted red as no parking zones, while other spaces along Cota Street are now re-painted as 15-minute parking. Some loading zones along Cota have been shifted to now be on Olive Street, in front of Arnoldi’s Restaurant. This is undoubtedly an adaptation for many motorists and some business owners, but we believe it to be one for the better, providing a safe, convenient return-route of travel for SBJH students and other cyclists as a coupled pairing to the adjacent Haley Street bike lane. Along with new Class II bike lanes also just installed along Rancheria Street on the Westside, this is a big, bold step for the greater good of active, sustainable transportation in Santa Barbara. Check it out next time you ride!
By Alex Pujo
Longtime residents often wonder why our region, once lauded as the cradle of the environmental movement and a leader in planning circles, now lags behind when it comes to getting anything done.
Call it ‘the accomplishment gap’: During the 30 years that we spent debating a ‘people mover’ on State Street, a trolley from Carpinteria to Isla Vista and a commuter train from Oxnard to Goleta -and we ended up instead with a wider freeway- Los Angeles, a city of freeways, built hundreds of miles of commuter rail, light rail lines of every color, subways under dense corridors and metro bus stretching out to the valleys.
And how about housing –the other side of the transportation equation? Along with rebuilding a transit network, Los Angeles more than tripled its downtown population and is no longer deserted after 5 pm. And Santa Barbara? Well… we debated endlessly about adding small rentals with less parking closer to town, but built precious little -and we are still talking about that.
While basic fixes move at a glacial pace, the conversation at City Hall gets bogged down by parking, fear of change and “we need another study”. There is nothing wrong with big projects, like the proposal to fix the lower State Street underpass but, why do the small fixes take so long, or never get done?
This article is written in the midst of a big municipal election and by press time Santa Barbara may have elected as Mayor the one candidate who has consistently denied climate change and advocated against active transportation and smart growth policies. The reason for this political morass is not that sustainability and the environment are no longer important to a majority of voters, but rather because there is not a clear, shared vision for a sustainable future –something tangible that goes beyond protecting what we already have.
The irony is that much of what Santa Barbara desperately needs can be accomplished rather easily. To begin with, we need lots of paint. To paint green bikeways is nowhere as complex as building the class I networks of the 1970s but, to hear the bureaucrats, this is asking for the sky. There is also no excuse for the treacherous gaps on Upper State over 101, access to City College, Hollister at Old Town and other glaring system deficiencies. And no excuse either for delaying the prompt implementation of ‘buffered’ lanes.
Another ‘low hanging fruit’ is the implementation of traffic calming area-wide with improved intersections, road diets and re-striping. These are not big or expensive projects, but they require a clear vision and sharp focus.
The same is true with housing, as small scale solutions are perfectly fine for communities like ours. Sacramento has recently enacted a series of laws aimed at removing local barriers to the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Since SB 1069 went into effect on January 1st of this year, the City of Santa Barbara received 230 applications; most of them are still sitting there, in spite of the state’s directive to approve them within 120 days. And a good number of these ADU applications are for legalizing units already built or converted without permits, many of them decades ago.
There is never a shortage of calls for caution, to measure twice and ‘what ifs?’, but the status quo is not the answer for everyone who lives and works in Paradise -not for those forced to commute, to hide in substandard housing or to risk life and limb on foot, or on two wheels.
A larger vision is something that takes into consideration architectural design, human scale, historic preservation, public views and community character, but never at the expense of environmental justice.
By Kim Stanley
What happens when a group of moms are unhappy about a route they and their elementary school children use to get to and from school everyday? A much-improved and safer path gets built! Granted, this is also a success story about being in the right place at the right time.
A group of Cleveland moms were talking about how unsafe the back walking-path to Cleveland School had become: There was crumbling cement and big sinkholes caused by erosion. As disrepair sets in, things like used needles and used condoms start showing up- you know the trend.
Fortunately COAST’s Ana Rico was on scene. She invited the moms, led by Marisol, to one of our Eastside community meetings. They presented their case vividly. We knew we could support them, but the initiative had to be theirs. First, we needed to find out who owned the path: Was it the City of Santa Barbara or the School District? We asked Peter Brown at the City, and the answer was: the School District. We realized that the School District had just passed Measure J, and every Santa Barbara School got to submit a wish list of needed repairs.
We knew we needed to make our case immediately as an eroded footpath might easily be overlooked in favor of other, flashier projects. So Ana and a group of moms spoke during public comment at the next school board meeting. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. Two weeks later, we heard that our project had been included in the repair list and even made a priority. It was built over the summer. With a little landscaping TLC, it will be a safe and inviting path for the Cleveland School community.
Way to go Cleveland moms!
By Eva Inbar
There is much discussion currently about the state of State Street, the beloved heart of Santa Barbara. Businesses are struggling, and too many storefronts are vacant. Iconic stores, like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, are closing. What to do?
On November 15th, the City of Santa Barbara held a workshop on how to “revitalize” the State Street underpass at Highway 101. Most tourists stay in hotels near the beach, but the city’s business district is located on the other side of Highway 101. How do we make the freeway less of a barrier than it naturally is? It’s an interesting question that drew a large crowd of almost 100 people, but it does not deal with State Street itself.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) held a workshop on Saturday, October 21st, to explore options to revitalize State Street. The workshop, or “charrette,” displayed an impressive amount of talent and creativity. Santa Barbara can be proud of its architects! One idea the architects proposed was adding housing to the State Street corridor. The ground level would still be stores, restaurants and other businesses, but the floors above could be apartments. Some people could live above their shops, as they did in the old days. There could also be live-work spaces for small entrepreneurs. The architects were also intrigued with Santa Barbara’s unique paseo system that allows walkers to get inside a block and would like to develop it more. Some of the groups even mentioned creating a car free zone on State Street.
State Street was a major topic in Santa Barbara’s recent city council elections. You can read an op-ed piece by one of the candidates here: “A modest Proposal to Revive State Street” by making it a place for people.
Let’s check out this idea: How about making a stretch of State Street a place for walking, biking and meeting people in a car free plaza? The larger paseo would connect with the existing smaller ones that are so popular. People of all ages and abilities could move about freely. Stores could spread out and restaurants would have more opportunity to set up tables outside. There would be musicians and artists’ booths, dance troupes and exercise classes for people to participate in. Car free zones are successful the world over in all the places we love to visit. They are also successful in this country, with Boulder’s Pearl Street, Denver’s Sixteenth Street Mall and Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade being prime examples. Even New York City is experimenting with Shared Streets. You can read an article from the New York Times here.
People love the experience and businesses are thriving. A study done in New York City documents the economic benefits of sustainable streets. The study includes Willoughby Plaza in Brooklyn, a newly created pedestrian paseo. People living on State Street would have the advantage of living on a street with no cars – no noise, no fumes, no traffic danger. They could just step out their front door and stroll with other people. They would be a built-in customer base for State Street businesses. Young people these days are more interested in experiences than in accumulating stuff. They like to live in an urban environment. State Street as a car free plaza could be an exciting urban experience for residents and tourists alike. New housing downtown combined with a car free plaza could be a winning combination. We believe a State Street Promenade is an idea whose time has come.
We are planning a forum in January to brainstorm what it could be like. Please visit our website for the date and location.
By Eva Inbar
This summer, I visited Portland, Oregon. Portland is one of the most popular places to live in this country, and now I understand why. It is of course a place of great natural beauty being situated on the Willamette River that is crossed by many bridges. But much of Portland’s recent success is a result of a conscious planning effort to limit auto traffic in the center city and make it a place for people. This has attracted many young urban professionals who have made Portland the vibrant place it is today.
Portland has made a serious investment in its light rail, streetcar, and bus system to provide mobility. Driving downtown is discouraged through a variety of strategies. Parking is scarce and expensive. Streets are narrow, many are one-way and turns are restricted. All of this combines to make the driving experience so slow and annoying that only a fool would try to drive downtown. Most streets have a dedicated lane for buses and streetcars. An extensive system of light rail lines connects Portland with its suburbs. Public transportation is well used throughout the day and downright crowded during rush hour. Groups of people can be seen on the sidewalks all over the city waiting for their tram.
There is a bike share service with brightly colored orange bikes, but my husband and I opted to rent bikes for the day at Portland State University’s bike hub. The rental came with a free bike map that revealed a network of bike routes connecting central Portland with the outlying areas. In the mornings and evenings, you can observe a steady stream of bike commuters on these routes. Every kind of exciting new bike infrastructure can be found in Portland: cycle tracks, fat green bike lanes, bike boxes even for left turns! Clearly, Portland is doing everything it can to encourage bicycling.
The walking experience downtown is excellent due to a network of curb extensions and a critical mass of other pedestrians around. Clearly, Portland has been doing this for a long time because these curb extensions are not new. And Portland has the most courteous drivers I have seen anywhere!
Perhaps the grandest statement of Portland’s philosophy (and its recipe for success) is its newest bridge, the Tilikum Crossing, dubbed a “Bridge of the People.” This beautiful modern bridge offers spacious accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as buses and light rail—but not cars.
All these efforts taken together and sustained over many years have made the difference. They have made Portland a city where street life is flourishing and where young people love to live. It is economically and culturally thriving. No empty store fronts there. Its restaurants are packed and the beer scene has to be experienced to be believed. I haven’t had so much good beer in a long time!
By Dennis Thompson
In April of this year, a group of eight cycling friends rode 444 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi, on the Natchez Trace. As we learned along the way, the Trace (a French word for trail) has been used by animals and humans for thousands of years as a north-south route through this part of the country. It had its high point from 1790 to 1820, when settlers from Ohio walked back home after delivering their goods to the Gulf area via boat on the Mississippi River. When steamboats came into use, they no longer walked, and the trail fell into disrepair.
Today, the Trace is a National Parkway, part of our national parks system. It is a 500 foot wide beautifully landscaped swath of land which passes through southern Tennessee, a corner of Alabama, and a big diagonal through Mississippi. There are historical and scenic stops along the way, including Native American ceremonial mounds, 200-year old cabins, antebellum mansions, Merriweather Lewis’s death place, swamps and ponds.
For us, this was a cyclists’ paradise! The gently rolling two-lane road has a speed limit of 50 miles per hour; commercial vehicles are not allowed, and bicycles have the right of way! There are no stop signs or cross-traffic; cars pass over and under, or merge with curved ramps. We rode 40-50 miles a day (we took turns driving our rented van) and stayed in motels and historic B & B’s in little rural towns, as well as Jackson, Natchez, and Tupelo (Elvis’s birthplace). We ate a little too much Southern food, but it was a most memorable trip for all of us!