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Local News

Santa Barbara City Council Reviews Revitalization Plan for De la Guerra Plaza

Council members and residents question cost and focus of $2.2 million project

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday heard city staff’s preliminary plan to revitalize the De la Guerra Plaza historic landmark.

Redevelopment specialist Liz Limon proposed making the plaza’s lawn even to street level, thereby eliminating the curb. The major expenditures for the estimated $2.2 million project would include redoing the U-shaped roadway and sidewalks.

“This certainly is the gem in the necklace of Santa Barbara parks and our public open spaces, and it’s really something that is used so much that we do this work, we should do it well,” Councilman Grant House said.

The project would also relocate the tented electrical panel used for such events as Mercado De la Guerra and upgrade underground utilities used by the food booths.

The palm trees lining the outside of the plaza will be removed, as city staff determined they wouldn’t survive being replanted because of their age and condition. They will be replaced with 16-foot-tall palm trees.

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss said he wants the cost of the project cut by at least half by focusing on necessary fixes, such as cracked sidewalks. He also expressed concern on behalf of downtown business owners that the redevelopment would increase the number of large events held in the plaza.

“There’s got to be something built into this where they’re confident that that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Mayor Helene Schneider recommended that staff make the plaza more inviting 365 days a year, not just during events. While the city is already upgrading other utilities, she suggested introducing broadband or WiFi access to make the plaza a modern gathering area.

The cost of the project took business owner Dennis Rickard by surprise. Rickard, who owns an office building at the corner of Anacapa and De la Guerra streets, said the funds would be better used elsewhere, particularly as the city seeks to rebuild its police station.

“Many of you were elected to stop projects that are basically off kilter,” he said. “This is a waste of money.”

Resident Sheila Lodge said the removal of benches and the addition of parking along the grass side of the loop have damaged the traditional feel to the plaza and should be reconsidered.

“It shouldn’t just be for El Mercado or public events,” she said. “It should be returned to the way it was with its sense of spaciousness and user friendliness.”

The Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission will review the plans for the plaza during its meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne 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.

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