Downtown Santa Barbara’s Biggest Question: Parklets or No Parklets?

Jun 20, 2023

Santa Barbara Independent | Ryan P. Cruz

The future of downtown Santa Barbara and its outdoor dining parklets has bubbled into one of the most polarizing topics in the city. So it came as a bit of a surprise when the city announced an awkwardly timed public meeting to discuss the subject, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. the Tuesday after a three-day, two-holiday weekend. By any standards, it was probably not the best time to ask for public opinion on an important issue.

But even with an early start time in what may be the hardest room to find in the downtown area — the Faulkner Gallery at the Central Library, which is currently fenced off for construction on all sides except for one small door at the back entrance — the meeting was packed with people eager to give their varied opinions on what should happen with these outdoor parklets when the temporary order allowing them runs out at the end of the year.

Downtown Manager Brian Bosse asked the standing-room-only audience to give input on three specific issues: parklets along the State Street Promenade; parklets on private property, such as restaurant parking lots; and “off State Street” parklets, such as those along Ortega, Haley, and Coast Village Road. The City Council would use this input, along with the results of a citywide survey that has already received thousands of responses, to potentially make a decision on the parklets as early as next week.

“We’re here to listen,” Bosse said, nearly drowned out by the sounds of jackhammers just outside the gallery. The construction disrupted the meeting several times, frustrating both city staff and the audience who struggled to hear comments. “We want to hear what you’ve got to say.”

Dozens of city residents, restaurateurs, retail business owners, and property managers spoke up during the meeting, with several criticizing the city’s choice of venue and the last-minute nature of the event. “It seems like you really don’t want input from the public,” one resident said.

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