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Citizens Group Calls for Safe Passage for Pedestrians, Bicyclists in Mission Area

The volunteer coalition sets it sights on improving visibility, signage and other safety measures

A community group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Safe Passage wants to make the busy area near Mission Santa Barbara and Rocky Nook Park safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

In a report released to the media, stakeholders outlined the problematic area between the Laguna Street and East Los Olivos Street intersection and the 700 block of Mission Canyon Road.

The area is packed with historical and natural resources, but has narrow streets, tight turns, bad visibility, missing or inadequate sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and poor signage, the report states.

Scroll down to read the full report.

The group’s goal is to create safe pedestrian and bicycle corridors from the Mission area to upper Mission Canyon Road, and improve the evacuation corridors while preserving the historical resources in the area.

The volunteer group includes representatives from the Santa Barbara Conservancy, the Pearl Chase Society, the Upper East Association, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, the Garden Street Academy, Phoenix of Santa Barbara, the Mission Canyon Association, the Kay Family Trust, Old Mission Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Women’s Club, Roosevelt Elementary School, Sisters of Holy Nativity/Brothers of the Holy Cross, and Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting Services.

Safe Passage took Santa Barbara City Council members, Mayor Helene Schneider, First District county Supervisor Salud Carbajal and community members on “walkabouts” of the area June 29 and July 13.

Upper East Association member Fred Sweeney said the group has been meeting for more than a year, trying to find consensus on how to proceed.

The group has raised $50,000 in donated time and money, and now elected officials have agreed to consider a task force and preliminary study on the area, Sweeney said.

Sweeney led the July 13 walk, pointing out historic structures along the way, and said it’s important to create a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely get from the Mission area to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. There’s no continuous sidewalk, and the last crosswalk in the area is near the Mission.

The “bottleneck” area near the Mission gets 10,700 average daily trips, helped along by the many schools in the area: Roosevelt Elementary School, the Garden Street Academy, Marymount School and Santa Barbara Middle School.

That doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Mission and museum each year, according to the Safe Passage report.

The historical district has important resources above and below ground, which will affect planning and design of street improvements, noted Don Olson, a member of the Upper East Association and a spokesperson for Safe Passage.

Nothing can move forward without consensus among all the stakeholders — the city, county, five property owners and neighborhood associations — which is why past attempts at a solution failed, said Rob Dayton, principal city transportation engineer.

So far, groups and elected officials have been supportive, Olson said.

“In the past, typically what happened was engineers coming out of left field with a proposal and it doesn’t make sense in terms of historical resources, so there’s a big controversy about that and they go away and nothing happens. Our approach this time is from the ground up.”

Safe Passage brought together neighborhood associations, property owners in the area, historical preservation groups, architects and engineers so planning meetings will include every perspective and trigger an honest discussion, Olson said.

“You experience firsthand the difficulty of crossing streets … you see the near misses almost every time you go there,” Olson said.

In a report released to media, the stakeholder group asks for “just do its” to address some issues immediately, even temporarily, and then an in-depth study for the more complicated issues.

If any plan moves forward, the city will gladly partner with the county since they both have jurisdiction there, Dayton said. Roundabouts and other improvements have been proposed in the past, but every proposal has been highly divisive because of the historical nature of the area and amount of landmarks, he said.

“We have to be very sensitive to the needs of the area and what everyone is asking for, and it’s helpful when someone puts together a consensus of stakeholders,” Dayton said. “Perhaps this will be the process that finally leads to action.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Concerned Citizens for Safe Passage Report

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