Monday, April 23 , 2018, 4:25 am | Fog/Mist 54º


Letter to the Editor: Santa Barbara Needs U-Turn on Street Priorities

Last Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council in evening session reviewed street pavement conditions and requests from neighborhoods about street planning. Cars Are Basic Inc. reviewed the agenda item, and based on its 12 years of transportation analysis came to the following conclusions, among which the city does not have the resources to properly maintain current streets and roads without significant changes in priorities.

All comments refer to the staff report accompanying the city informational item that lays out in stark terms the coming sinkhole of street conditions if immediate changes in city priorities is not taken.

As outlined in the staff report, the most recent study of the city’s street pavement condition Index shows that it has further declined. According to Public Works to maintain the street pavement condition at a standard level of care is estimated to cost approximately $7 million annually. The staff report also states that the city spends approximately $2 million annually on pavement maintenance efforts (which means the city is spending less than 30 percent of the money required, the standard level of care continues to slip, and as the quality slips the costs increase exponentially).

Please put the discussion into context: The city is underfunded by more than 70 percent for streets maintenance. The conclusion should be that the city does not have the money to start and/or implement new projects at this time, and that we need to somehow allocate more monies for pavement maintenance soon before we have a crisis on our hands.

Cars Are Basic has repeatedly highlighted the transportation failure of 40-plus years of policy and action. Your preceding councils have chosen to ignore fact for fantasy. At the Sept. 10 council meeting, CAB underscored that there is no justification for the narrowing of Lower State from Haley Street, and the city has intentionally refused to test the issue with concrete action. Community Development and Public Works have continued their drunken lurch in planning based on a dated and tired transportation philosophy over 40 years old.

Agenda item 18 is a review of transportation related issues located in a variety of neighborhoods. It is exactly the same type of planning, and more importantly the same failed justification, presented to the majority of the residents of the city in the 1990s.

Faced with $7 million of annual street maintenance, how is it possible to add any new projects? The city no longer has the deep pocket tax revenues that were funded by the Redevelopment Agency using statewide tax monies for projects. Wasteful transportation planning “in hope it will work” is no longer covered up with massive outside funding, is the inconvenient truth. The staff report says “February 2012, council prioritized staff efforts to implement the recently adopted General Plan. Attachment 1 ... .” The report goes on to state, “This would be a significant allocation of Transportation Division resources.” Streets are literally decaying as we review this, where will the money come from?

In what can only be praised because of its honesty, the staff report goes on to state, “The Alternative Transportation Demand Analysis effort would require consultant services and new, innovative tools to measure Santa Barbara’s current and future need to use alternative modes of transportation.” For over a decade, Cars Are Basic has raised critical and timely issues of honest reporting and truly effective long-range planning. Until this report, city transportation staff has followed the path of ignoring, discrediting or false presentation of justifications (bulbouts are a classic case) for following failed long-range projects. Stating there would have to be “new, innovative tools” is the clear admission of failure of current and past practices (tools) for “alternative transportation.”

The current neighborhood issues in item 18 pander to what are emotional and boutique items of the day. For instance, the Mission Canyon proposal has stated among its goals to maintain the “historical nature” and use of the area. The proposals cannot do that. Staff stated years ago the school district and Roosevelt principal were aware of and supported the bulbouts in front of the school and a roundabout at Los Olivos. When contacted, neither facilities management, the superintendent nor the principal was aware of the plans and spoke against them. The intentional design congestion in front of the school has made bicycle travel very dangerous, backed up traffic during peak use times, and made entrance/exit to the school parking lot almost impossible.

Calle Noguera is another classic example of failed planning. Speed bumps intended to slow traffic have led to more dangerous travel and increased speeds. Why? As CAB warned a decade ago, using reports from England and France, drivers learn quickly that increasing speed dampens the bounce effect. Much of the complaint issues are with neighbors against neighbor as this the preferred “alternative route” for residents (important distinction — locals) to use instead of State Street.

Most of the issues related to this street are around Peabody School, and rush-hour based. The rest of the time it is a fine and safe road. Peach Grove Lane is a dead-end, meaning the issue here is the neighbors! Again, this is a neighbor vs. neighbor problem. Tickets issued at random times and dates will quickly quell the problem as well as enforcement of zoning.

The staff report goes on to state that “community outreach efforts are anticipated to cost approximately $50,000 to $150,000 for consultant services.” The 400 block of Anapamu Street needs more repair then this anticipated expenditure. The street is so bad that “meter maids” from the Police Department use extraordinary measures to avoid this dangerous street for their vehicles.” “Although (CAB insert — “all”) those streets were found to be within safety standards, residents commonly want to slow travel speeds further through neighborhoods, usually to increase the quality of the pedestrian experience. Decreasing travel speeds can be accomplished through various types of traffic-calming devices, many have which have been tested on Santa Barbara streets. Traffic calming devices can be expensive to install and maintain.”

This does not include the projected cost of buying Cliff and Las Positas, and the staff estimate of over $300,000 annual maintenance (CAB estimate is closer to $700,000). The language above “tested on Santa Barbara streets” ignores traffic studies proving speeds on Garden are back to pre-build levels, cars are now using the curb extension as the wait location defeating bulbout design, and city stats show most Class II bike paths have seen a significant decline in use in the past decade

High density infill has exacerbated the failed alternative transportation mode. Yet that is exactly what the current council majority is intent on pursuing. The continuing density plans have radically and adversely impacted the quality of life in the city, as well as street/road conditions. Streets are parked to the hilt evenings and holidays, a result of intentional but failed city design.

We end our comments with the following: Staff report — “Implementing capital improvements that are part of council adopted transportation plans can cost from $500,000 to $5,000,000 (and more) depending on the complexity of the area and the chosen solutions. For example, the Cliff Drive improvements recommended by the Mesa Architects could cost upwards of $10,000,000. There are no funds identified yet for any capital improvements that would be recommended in a future Transportation Management Plan.”

The city is faced with the reality of high-density urban living because of intentional actions of the current council majority. We repeat, the staff report, the city analysis proving overall safety of street use, and speeds at or below the 25 mile per hour speed limits in most of these locations is definitive. Actions leading to the narrowing, congestion of or reduction of emergency conditions cannot and should not happen given the staff report and realities of current life in Santa Barbara.

This Tuesday will see an advancement of unrealistic transportation issues of the upper east in Santa Barbara. It is based on the same unrealistic idea that planning can return the City of Santa Barbara to walking, biking and vehicle travel equivalent to 50 years ago when the population was half what it is today.

Scott Wenz, president
Cars Are Basic Inc.

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