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Santa Barbara Moves Forward with Funding for Bicycle Master Plan

After months of community input, City Council gave thumbs-up to numerous projects

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday gave approval for funding for the establishment of a bicycle master plan.
The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday gave approval for funding for the establishment of a bicycle master plan. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara took another crucial step Tuesday toward the establishment of a bicycle master plan.

The City Council injected another dose of feedback into the draft plan, which has undergone a long — and at times arduous — planning and public engagement process, as the city looks to fill in the gaps in its bikeways and promote active forms of transportation.

City transportation planners were given approval to submit three applications for funding from CaltransActive Transportation Program.

The applications concern Eastside green lanes and closing the gaps in the neighborhood’s bike boulevards; closing gaps in the Westside’s bike boulevards; and the construction of a multi-use path along Las Positas and Modoc roads.

The bundle of projects in the Eastside application include 10 blocks of bike boulevard on Alisos Street, options for green-painted bike lanes on Haley and Cota streets, an Ortega Street bike lane, and crosswalk enhancements at Cota and Canon Perdido streets.

The Westside application covers a bike boulevard for Chino Street — though designs for an alternative along neighboring Gillespie Street will also be considered should funding come through — as well as a connection between the Eastside and Westside.

The Las Positas and Modoc roads path is currently undergoing environmental review, said Principal Transportation Planner Rob Dayton, and already has $1.4 million in ATP grant money from 2014.

The total cost, however, is estimated at $12 million.

The deadline for this ATP grant cycle is this Wednesday, and the three applications grouping similar projects were prepared in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.

The time constraint meant that the council was providing more of an up-or-down vote on the applications, rather than a vote on what they should include.

Each application’s bundling of similar projects was intended to make them more competitive to the ATP, said Dayton.

Dayton admitted that without the ATP funding, there would be no money available for anything but the simplest few projects, but told the council that “we’re very hopeful” and “positive and optimistic” that the ATP will approve the applications.

With a clearer idea of what project options to pursue, designs and specific details for projects like a Westside bike boulevard can be better fleshed out and more public input opportunities can be undertaken, Dayton said.

Final approval for the bicycle master plan is slated for later this summer.

However, any project submitted to the ATP that is not part of an adopted plan by Aug. 2 is disqualified from consideration, Dayton warned.

In addition to the council’s unanimous votes to move forward with the 11th-hour applications, it gave the thumbs up to many of the proposed projects city staff have been developing.

With Councilwoman Cathy Murillo dissenting, the body voted 6–1 to support Rancheria Street bike lanes on the lower Westside, Cota Street bike lanes, and “Option 6A” for the east–west connection, which primarily utilizes Sola Street for a bike boulevard.

The addition of bike lanes on a stretch of Cabrillo Boulevard was supported 5–2, with councilmen Frank Hotchkiss and Randy Rowse citing concerns about potential effects on traffic.

A separate round of votes without Murillo and Mayor Helene Schneider, who live in the area at hand, was held for the Westside application and the Chino bike boulevard, which were both given unanimous thumbs-up.

Before any of the votes, however, nearly 40 public commenters expressed a wide, and often contrary, array of opinions and arguments.

Residents, business owners, and local organizers either commended the city’s thoughtful public engagement process or chastised a considerable lack thereof, praised a thorough process or criticized an incomplete one, and asked the city to prioritize parking, cyclist safety, or the promotion of active transportation.

Many, however, strongly encouraged the council to pursue the Sola Street east–west option.

Each council member expressed their pleasure, though, with how the city’s various communities and stakeholders came together to construct a plan that satisfied significantly more people than what was proposed only several months ago.

The longer process, Councilman Gregg Hart said, led to more agreement and consensus.

“In all respects — from a bicyclist standpoint, from a connectivity and safety standpoint, from an affordability standpoint — it is a better project,” he said.

“It’s still a very successful grant application because it’s the result of a very collaborative community process,” Hart said. “I think that story in itself is a really compelling part of the application and the story that we’re going to tell the state.”

If any urban planning project in Santa Barbara has garnered residents’ attention, ingenuity and ire over the past year, it is the drafting of the bicycle master plan.

In March, the council directed city planners to hold another round of public-engagement opportunities, especially for the controversial east–west connection, as well as check-ins with the city’s Transportation and Circulation Committee and Planning Commission.

In April, over 65 people turned out for a listening workshop on the proposed east–west path, which helped result in Sola Street-oriented options that have garnered widespread support from residents and city officials alike.

The original proposal for an east–west connection, which was initially approved by Council in February and drew an intense backlash from residents, ran along Micheltorena Street, and would have required the removal of more than 80 parking spaces.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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