Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 1:53 am | Fair 41º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Advice

Santa Maria Leaders Seek To Transform Downtown Area

City Council, Planning Commission support revisions to specific plan first adopted in 2008

A farmers market is held each Wednesday in the parking lot for the Santa Maria Town Center West, the area city leaders hope to make the focal point for regular events to transform the downtown area into a pedestrian and bicycllist friendly area.
A farmers market is held each Wednesday in the parking lot for the Santa Maria Town Center West, the area city leaders hope to make the focal point for regular events to transform the downtown area into a pedestrian and bicycllist friendly area.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Maria leaders hope efforts to revive the city’s downtown core will get a boost from a revised roadmap aimed at filling the area with activities and entertainment to attract people.

During a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday night with approximately 50 people in the audience, both panels blessed the changes presented by staff.

“We’re viewing this plan as a roadmap that purposely is not intended to detail every step we’re going to take along the way ...  The idea is if we can agree upon the plan and the vision, we can move into the details at a later date," said Peter Gilli, planning division manager.

Work on the Downtown Specific Plan began in 2004 and culminated in 2008 with adoption. But little action followed, in part due to the recession, staff said. 

Revisions fixed shortcomings in the previous plan to create a flexible, user-friendly document, staff said. The actual plan also is smaller, going from 250 pages to 100 pages. 

Santa Maria’s downtown got a new look in the 1970s when the city tore down several buildings to make way for the enclosed Santa Maria Town Center and outdoor Town Center West with the aim to become a regional shopping destination.

However, indoor malls fell out of favor nationwide and cities with preserved downtowns saw a resurgence while Santa Maria’s has languished.

Hampering the city’s plans has been that the heart of Santa Maria sits along two state highways — Main Street is Highway 166 and Broadway is Highway 135. Recently, Caltrans representatives have been amenable to the downtown project, city staff said.. 

Additionally, Main Street has heavy truck traffic, but city staff said that could be diverted to another road, such as Betteravia Road, amid efforts to make the area more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

The latest vision for downtown, arising from community meetings a decade ago, remains essentially unchanged from the plan adopted seven years ago.

“What the goal of the plan is to create a culturally rich environment that reflects the community, a safer, inviting and pedestrian oriented area and an area with diverse entertainment opportunities,” said Neda Zayer, a city planner.

Staff crafted a three-pronged strategy to make the plan reality — activities, partnership and beautification.

To boost downtown, staff envisions a weekly event, held in the Town Center West parking lot, to attract passers-by.

“People will see that there’s things going on downtown, will get to see that there’s people, there’s activities, there’s events, and to start changing perceptions and thoughts of downtown, that on weekends or evenings they would think, ‘Oh I wonder what’s going on downtown,” Zayer said.

One suggestion envisions holding a weekly food truck event with music, bounce houses and more “to start creating a buzz,” Zayer said.

Residents spoke out in favor of efforts to transform the downtown area.

“I believe in the plan. It’s an opportunity for us to grow as a city,” said Leonarado Espinoza Jr., noting he grew up in the area.

“When we invest in our local business leaders, they invest in us back,” he said.

Laurie Tamura from Urban Planning Concepts recommended the city consider reduction or elimination of some fees. 

“You want to encourage the development to happen. You want to encourage infill,” she said. “This little special part of Santa Maria — and I’m going to call it the heart of the city —  should have special care and special recognition and special consideration, so please reduce the fees.”

Councilman Jack Boysen echoed comments of Glenn Morris, CEO and president of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, that people are going to be the key to success.

“I think that maybe what was wrong with our old Downtown Specific Plan — we figured build it and they would come,” Boysen said. “We need to get the people there and see it built after that.”

With support from commissioners and council members regarding the revised plan, staff will now hold public hearings and hope the new document will take effect Jan. 1.

"All in all, I think this is a great step forward," Commissioner Adrian Andrade added. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

People filled the audience for the joint meeting of the Santa Maria City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday night in the Santa Maria Public Library’s Shepard Hall. Click to view larger
People filled the audience for the joint meeting of the Santa Maria City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday night in the Santa Maria Public Library’s Shepard Hall. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >