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Letter to the Editor: ‘Laguna District’ a Better Name Than ‘Lagoon District’ for Business Area

I am the owner of Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center at 415 E. Gutierrez St. We have been providing products and services to Santa Barbara now for more than 50 years, having just eclipsed that milestone anniversary. Another couple of great milestones this year were our being recognized by ACE Hardware as its No. 1 purchasing store out of 4,340 stores nationwide, and also being recognized by the Pacific Coast Business Times as the small business of the tri counties for 2017.

The reason I am writing and have been having discussions since meeting with Robert Mislang and Jacob Tell, who seek to create a distinct business district between Anacapa and Milpas streets along the Haley and Gutierrez corridors, is that I am strongly opposed to the verbiage "Lagoon District" to describe our evolving sector of town. To me, it should rather be described as the Laguna District since this correlates to both the street and canal’s names.

Additionally, the word lagoon when pronounced ends in a downbeat finish as opposed to the upbeat lilt as with the word laguna. Worse yet, however, is that to me and many others in business in our area, lagoon connotes a vision of dark, stagnant, foul-smelling, mosquito-infested, fetid water all sadly reminiscent of the situations in Texas and Florida following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. There is nothing distinctive, elegant, vibrant or romantic about a lagoon. Instead, the word laguna, while respecting the two specific areas in the neighborhood, also pays respect and homage to the Spanish heritage of our vicinity in the same manner that the choice of the wording for the entrance into Santa Barbara from Sterns Wharf pays homage to our early Spanish visitors by its name "La Entrada."

I hope and respectfully ask that this ill-conceived, poor name choice that came about, as I understand it, more by mistake than by design be morphed in these early stages into "Laguna District" for the reasons I have described.

Additionally, we definitely don’t want people to associate this part of town as one with a proclivity toward flooding as occurred twice in 1995 with literally 10 blocks in our immediate area being under water. This has nearly occurred a half-dozen times since owing to the poorly designed (Caltrans used only a 25-year rain history for its design, saving millions in construction), elevated Highway 101 for the creation of the Garden Street Underpass. There is nothing elegant or fun about an area prone to flooding as a result, and we certainly don’t want to further perpetuate any reference to flooding through the use of the ill-chosen word lagoon.

There is nothing carved in stone with regards to the moniker "Lagoon District." It would be doing us all a great service to softly change it to Laguna District going forward. It would be the right thing for the neighborhood and its businesses.

Gary Simpson
Santa Barbara

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