The oldest movement in Old Town Goleta has a new name and strategy for persuading residents and other stakeholders to care about the community.
The Old Town Community Association is the latest reincarnation of locals who hope to bring a broader base of more focused voices to speak on issues that impact them most.
The group, previously known as the Old Town Goleta Concerned Citizens, also wants to offer free events to gather residents and lovers of the downtown area together — more like the Milpas Community Association that also advocates for its constituents.
Several association members gathered on a recent morning at the Goleta Valley Community Center, where one organizer, Rob Locke, works as general manager.
Some current members have been lobbying for safety and development issues within the Hollister Avenue corridor since before Goleta was incorporated in 2002, including Phil Unander of Larry’s 8 Day Auto Parts.
Steve Cousens, owner of Tri-Valley Trophies, is also among the veterans. His Kellogg Avenue shop has been open for nearly 40 years.
And all are well aware of what little has happened in the past decade.
The pockets of communities created prior to incorporation still remain, Locke said, producing an Old Town identity crisis and a disconnect between inhabitants and place of residence.
“We’re looking at building a community,” Locke said.
Phebe Mansur, owner of Copyright Printing on Hollister Avenue, said the association’s roots were planted three or four years ago to try to facilitate much-needed constructive communication between the city and those actually living and working in Old Town.
Although the group saw some minor successes — mainly related to pedestrian safety improvements along Hollister — meetings would see anywhere between five and 45 attendees.
Even when city officials asked for Old Town input about infrastructure and development, stakeholders felt they were being asked too late in the process to matter. Members cited the San Jose Creek restoration and Hollister widening and roundabout projects as examples.
“A lot of people are still in the dark about that,” Locke said. “How do we bridge the gap? Let’s all be a part of the solution.”
The group hosted its first meeting last November to a crowd of more than 50, including a handful of elected officials, church leaders and merchants. Organizers also want residents and educators involved.
The Old Town Community Association will host its next meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday at the GVCC, where attendees will talk about issues and the group itself.
Association members hope to work with city officials, who say they have already amped up outreach efforts but would welcome an Old Town Goleta advocate.
“We’ve often longed for there to be some organized group to work with the city,” City Manager Dan Singer told Noozhawk. “Having a forum for that would be really beneficial.”
Cousens encouraged locals to contact the association at [email protected] or on his cell at 805.452.0376.
“The community aspect is how we’re going to draw them in,” added Mansur, an Old Town activist since the late 2000s. “It has to be a community event.”