With a 4-3 vote that wasn’t reached until Tuesday’s early evening hours, the Santa Barbara City Council voted to remove guidelines making curb extensions mandatory for Chapala Street.
The former guidelines, which cover Chapala from Carrillo Street to where it dead-ends into Highway 101, call for curb and sidewalk bulb-outs to be added at each intersection. The city’s traffic planners say making pedestrians more visible to motorists is a key advantage of the extensions, as well as enforcing the paths of bicycles alongside vehicle traffic.
Karen McFadden, owner of Santa Barbara Lights at 509 Chapala St., challenged the city when a remodel of the Verizon building at 101 Canon Perdido was approved late last year, taking issue with the bulb-out required for the project to go forward. She appealed the project but dropped the appeal on the condition that the council revisit the guidelines.
Councilman Dale Francisco and Councilwoman Michael Self led the charge Tuesday, and Self began the meeting by showing slides of several curb extensions in the downtown area. Black tire marks were featured in the photos, and Self said she has received an inbox full of letters from people “revolted” by the bulb-outs.
Buses struggle in the area, and fire trucks driving to and from Station 1 on Carrillo need full access to the street, she said. In terms of pedestrian visibility, she was skeptical.
“Yes, you can see down the street better by being out there, but is that really a good idea?” Self asked.
“This is a discussion long overdue,” Francisco said, adding that traffic calming in general was borne out of larger cities that are more unfriendly to pedestrians. “Not only is it easy walking distance, those walks are among the most pleasant imaginable. The vast majority of people I’ve encountered are opposed to these.”
He said there are reasons they could be used, but he called on the City Council to remove the absolute requirement on Chapala.
Public comment brought out 16 speakers, 11 of whom supported curb extensions.
Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmen Grant House and Bendy White voted against the measure based on concerns that it was too extreme and ignored the community input garnered to craft the guidelines in the first place.
Tuesday’s vote will remove the paragraph that mandates the curb extensions, at intersections and at midblock. The Verizon project will not be required to have a bulb-out, and city staff will revise the guidelines accordingly.
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.