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Local News

Santa Barbara Parking Lots Project Aimed at Minimizing Rain Runoff

Pavers to replace asphalt but construction to bring inconvenience for visitors at Oak Park, Stevens Park and the Westside Neighborhood Center

The City of Santa Barbara will be temporarily closing four parking lots — including two at popular Oak Park — as it embarks on a $2.3 million project to reduce storm runoff and water pollution.

The project, which had been delayed by the winter rains, is to begin Monday and run through October, if everything goes as planned.

The plan — according to Cameron Benson, the city’s creek restoration and water quality manager — is to replace the parking lots’ asphalt with pavers, which allow rainwater to sink into the ground instead of running across the surface and into storm sewers or ditches.

“The largest source of pollution in creeks and ocean waters in the City of Santa Barbara — in fact, in most cities across the country — is urban runoff,” Benson told Noozhawk.

“The parking lots will not need to be slurry-sealed and won’t need to be replaced as frequently,” he added. “That’s just the nature of asphalt. The pavers will last a lot longer than asphalt will.”

The parking lots to be closed are:

» Stevens Park, 258 Canon Drive, TBD to June 27

» Westside Neighborhood Center, 423 W. Victoria St., May 28 to July 13

» Oak Park Tennis Court, 2401 Tallant Road, June 18 to Aug. 3

» Oak Park’s main parking lot, 300 W. Alamar Ave., Aug. 5 to Oct. 25

Officials say most of the funding for the $2.3 million project — $1.9 million of it — will come from a grant the city received as part of voter-approved Proposition 84, a 2006 statewide water quality, supply and control improvement initiative.

The remaining $400,000 will be provided from a fund created as a result of the 2000 Measure B initiative, a 2-percent bed tax increase Santa Barbara voters approved to support water quality and creek restoration.

To comply with the Clean Water Act, a permit was issued that requires the city to develop a project to capture and treat a one-inch rain storm every 24 hours, Benson said.

Santa Barbara County recorded 13.45 inches of rainfall in 2012, according to a report from the Western Regional Climate Center.

An area of 100,000 square feet of parking lot asphalt will be replaced with concrete bricks spaced so rain can be absorbed into the soil beneath them.

Even though the primary purpose of the project is to improve water quality, Benson said there also will be less runoff, which can cause flooding. He cited MacKenzie Park’s parking lot — the first to get the makeover — as an example.

Benson said the pavers will generate other cumulative benefits, like recharging the groundwater. There is no risk of over-saturating the soil, he added, noting that the groundwater table is about 12 feet below the surface.

“We know we’re able to handle more than one inch of rainfall every 24 hours, in all of these locations,” he said.

Benson said the parks and facilities will be open during construction, although the parking lots will remain closed.

“People will have to find alternative parking,” he said.

Noozhawk intern Gabriella Slabiak 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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