Tuesday, December 11, 2007

City denies appeal, says OK to sidewalks


After nearly three hours of discussion and deliberation yesterday evening, the Santa Barbara City Council gave the final OK to a sidewalk replacement project along Cabrillo Boulevard after voting 5-1 to deny an appeal of the Historic Landmarks Commission’s (HLC) approval.

Councilmember Grant House voted against the motion and Councilmember Brian Barnwell was absent.
The project as approved by the HLC involves replacing sidewalk from Mission Creek to Milpas Street on the ocean side of Cabrillo Boulevard and installing landscaping in 12-foot sections between the sidewalk and the curb.
Members of the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show (SBACS) argued that the landscaping will impair their ability to load and unload their vehicles for their Sunday show, clashing with city and HLC representatives who felt the landscaping had already been cut down to the bare minimum in the spirit of compromise.
“Sometimes there is a difference between what you want to do and what you can do,” Councilmember Das Williams said. “…As much as I love the show, it’s not the only use and we can’t design an entire boulevard that is the entryway to the city based entirely on your needs.”
Although city staff members initially proposed a project that involved minimal vegetation, the Historic Landmarks Commission determined that landscaping had been a part of the historic design developed in 1924 by Charles Cheney and the Olmsted Brothers Firm.
Since Cabrillo Boulevard is eligible for inclusion in the National Registrar of Historic Places as a parkway historic district, the HLC determined that the project needed to maintain a minimum amount of landscaping to remain in keeping with the Cheney/Olmsted vision.
“I think we have reached a place of true compromise,” Councilmember Iya Falcone said. “Everyone has to give an inch to keep everyone satisfied.”
Currently, a 4-foot-wide strip of dirt separates the curb from the sidewalk along much of the proposed project area. Once the project is completed, 7,000 lineal feet along that strip — of the project’s 18,000 total lineal feet — will be landscaped.
Six-foot plantings will extend from either side of each streetlight and 12-foot plantings will be placed at 65-foot intervals between each light post. The landscaped areas will also have a 24-inch setback from the street.
Members of the SBACS spoke out against the proposed project yesterday, saying despite attempts to provide loading zones and setbacks, it will still seriously impair access.
“It serves neither the community nor visitor needs while putting all at risk,” one member of the arts show said. “We need more room on the sidewalks, not less.”
Marilyn Loperfido, the appellant representing the SBACS, suggested circular plantings around each streetlight instead of six-foot plantings, or simply increasing the setback width to provide more space between the vegetation and the curb.

As a result, part of the motion approved by the Council directed city staff and the HLC to examine the possibility of shortening the width of the planting beds. However, HLC chairman Bill La Voie expressed doubt that any further tinkering can be done.
“I think we’ve compromised,” he said. “I think we may have compromised the historic character. Anymore takeaway and you will have crossed that level.”
The Council also discussed the possibility of adjusting the red zone installed along the curb at the left turn lane for Calle Cesar Chavez to provide more room for loading and unloading. While city transportation manager Browning Allen said there appears to be wiggle room to free up about 40 feet of space, removing the red zone entirely is not an option.
“We just don’t have the adequate width for cars to be parked along this area for any amount of time,” he said.

Allen also discussed the potential for closing one lane of the roadway for unloading in the morning and loading in the afternoon. Ultimately, the Council took a straw poll to measure support for further examination of that option. Councilmembers Helene Schneider, Roger Horton and Falcone voted against the idea, putting the informal vote at a 3-3 denial.
“I do not think that closing a lane on a Sunday … makes sense in any way,” Falcone said.
The sidewalk replacement project dates back to 2001, when the City Council approved it as part of a larger bond measure. Redevelopment supervisor Brian Bosse said the $3.1 million earmarked for the project should still cover the expected costs. Bids for the sidewalk replacement project are expected to go out in early 2008.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a member of the SBACS in good standing for 6 years, I am pleased to know that the project is finally going forward! I was opposed to the appeal launched by a small but voiciferous group of whiners and I'm happy to see that good sense has prevailed. The sidewalk replacement project is long over-due and I welcome the improvements.