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Local News

Supervisors Give the Go-Ahead to No-Parking Zones on Foothill Road

Residents call for further discussion of the issue, saying decisions are being made without their input

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to approve no-parking zones on a stretch of Foothill Road (Route 192) in Santa Barbara despite a strong turnout from residents demanding further discussion of the issue.

The approved resolution establishes no-parking zones between Tye and Mission Canyon roads, an area under construction by Caltrans to fill and pave over ditches for better drainage. The project is slated to be done in a month, and public works representatives at the board meeting insisted that no-parking signs were required by Caltrans before completion.

Residents of Foothill Road have long had issues with the dangers associated with the road, including speeding drivers, inaccessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians, difficulty backing out of driveways safely and access to parking.

The area has a high accident rate, which is attributed to many of these issues, and residents expressed concern that the newly widened shoulders could exacerbate the dangers of the road. Many rely on street parking to avoid backing out of their driveways on the narrow, busy street.

The construction project is seen by county officials, including 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, as a public safety issue — mainly providing better access for emergency vehicles.

“We never would have invested millions of dollars to enhance parking,” he said.

However, Carbajal and the board recommended that the Mission Canyon Association, the Public Works Department, Caltrans and others involved continue discussions to try to “salvage” the few existing parking spots in the involved Foothill Road area, though the newly widened shoulder areas will not be available for additional parking.

There has been miscommunication regarding the planning and input given by residents for the project. Many were unaware of most of the public meetings given by Caltrans — at least 12, according to Carbajal — and expressed concerns that a widened road would undeniably lead to more speeding drivers.

The board acknowledged that the road is very dangerous because of speeding. Derek Johnson, director of the Office of Long Range Planning, has said that changes to Foothill Road would undoubtedly lead to higher speeds.

While residents have mixed feelings on this particular resolution, most of those who spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting wanted further discussion of the issue, and all of them felt that decisions pertaining to Foothill Road have been made without their input.

Some of the Mission Canyon Association members present — including Tim Steele, whose home was burned in the Jesusita Fire, and Neal Graffy, who sent mass e-mails to neighbors and friends in opposition of this resolution — were most upset at the way the resolution was handled by the county.

Even though construction isn’t done yet, the county won’t wait to see what the finished project looks like to re-evaluate the parking situation, Graffy said.

“There are literally fences going up in the next month, and nobody’s actually determined what these signs will say,” Steele said. There’s been discussion of where parking will be for months, yet they voted a month before the project has to be completed, he said.

Both men attended all of the meetings they could find — and told everyone they knew about them — and considered “every trick in the book” to find solutions for the street’s problems, Steele said.

They’ve considered a lot of options — including painting the shoulders to make the road appear narrower and putting in stop signs — but all have been turned down by Caltrans, they said.

Thus far, attempts at getting enforcement of the speed limit — 35 mph, which is rarely obeyed, according to residents and frequent traffickers — or parking haven’t been very effective, residents said.

Though the resolution was passed, the board did so only on the understanding of continued dialogue between all parties involved to find a solution that will carry the input of residents as well as the planning organizations, Carbajal said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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