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Planners in the Field: Pedestrian Parklet Cruise on Santa Barbara’s State Street

Written by Clay Downing, Ventura County Sub-Section Director for APA California’s Central Coast Section

Santa Barbara, CA - At this point, many of us have been stuck at home, to greater and lesser degrees, since COVID-19 changed the way that we operate beginning in February this year. While many professional planners spend much of our jobs in an office, the issues that we work on are tied to happenings in our communities. To this end, I had the opportunity to take stroll along Santa Barbara’s State Street in the beginning of August and was amazed at the changes that I saw. Despite social distancing, masks, and immense changes to the way that businesses must operate, State Street was alive with activity as Lexi Journey, Ethan Stan, and I observed the changes that have occurred in this corridor since the start of the pandemic.

As noted in a prior conversation with Robin Elander, Downtown Santa Barbara’s Interim Director, the idea of opening up State Street in innovative ways and reducing auto-based accessed is not new. But it seems that the global pandemic gave Santa Barbara the nudge required to take a dive into exploring what that could really look like. For anyone that has not visited State Street recently – the change is striking. As Elander noted in a APA Planner Talk from May 2020, the corridor has a completely new and energized vibe that makes it feel like a whole new place. The entire video interview with Downtown Santa Barbara’s Robin Elander is available online at centralcoastapa.org/apa-planner-talk-reopening-state-street-robin-elander.

For me, one of the obvious standout features that was observed over and over as our group walked the several blacks from upper to lower State Street was the abundance of parklets. And onthis particular day, the image of just how busy these new spaces were was a shock to my new homebound lifestyle. Below, I offer a image-based stroll down State Street for those of you that have not yet had the opportunity to see the changes in one of Santa Barbara’s best know corridors. It is hard for me to imagine how State Street could possibly return to the pre-COVID look and feel after such a transformative wave of investment that has literally brought people into the street itself.

Click here to Explore State Street

If you have the opportunity to responsibly explore spaces on the Central Coast or elsewhere – please consider sharing your observations with fellow planners along the Central Coast so that all of us can learn about the changes that are and will continue to sweep through our communities. Send your submissions to the Central Coast Section of the American Planning Assocaition at centralcoastapa@gmail.com.

State Street, Santa Barbara showing expansions of commercial spaces and new active uses in right of way areas where auto access has been prohibited in the wake of efforts to reopen in response to COVID-19.





Thursday, August 13, 2020 (All day)

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