The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a transportation plan for the city’s Eastside neighborhood, with a host of residents turning out to urge government leaders to continue to do more for pedestrians and cyclists in the area.
Earlier this year, the city’s Public Works Department held workshops to identify areas of concern and develop an action plan. What came out of those efforts was the Eastside Neighborhood Transportation Management Plan, which the council approved on Tuesday.
The six main goals in the plan are improving street lighting, enhancing walking experiences, reducing vehicle speeds, adding bicycle amenities, increasing outreach on the rules of the road and adding improvements to bus stops.
Twenty-eight of the projects the plan included can be funded with existing city money and budget funds over the next three years, but there are 10 projects left, the cost of which could top $19 million.
About $11 million of that is needed for neighborhood lighting improvements, and residents ranked lighting as the No. 1 needed improvement at an April workshop, followed by enhanced pedestrian crossings.
The council ultimately decided to incorporate those 10 remaining projects into the queue with the city’s other capital improvements instead of first prioritizing the Eastside neighborhood projects.
During the neighborhood workshops, residents expressed concerns about speeding cars in the area, so city police conducted enforcement in the area, city transportation planner Rob Dayton told the council Tuesday.
While officers issued tickets for issues such as rolling through stop signs, “they were not able to issue any tickets for speeding,” he said.
Speeding is more of a perception than a reality on the Eastside, he said, so “instead of trying to slow down the car in general, it’s really about enhancing the pedestrian amenities.”
About 10 people spoke during public comment, many expressing thanks to city officials for their work on the issue.
Caitlin Carlson of COAST, a group that also had held transportation workshops on the Eastside, showed a video of neighborhood residents making comments, many of them mothers who walk their children to school.
Kent Epperson, an Eastside resident who also works for Traffic Solutions, said the area has a notable lack of bike infrastructure. Educating cyclists and drivers to be more aware of each other on the road is key, he said, but “you can’t educate yourself out of an infrastructure problem.”
Ana Rico, another Eastside resident, spoke with her 6-year-old daughter by her side.
“The curb extensions would be really helpful,” she said, adding that she walks often with her toddler in a stroller. “My 11-year-old wants to walk to school. I’m still debating on whether to let him go on his own. … We want this plan for everyone.”
Councilman Dale Francisco said he was inclined to follow staff’s recommendation, and then they can look at one-time monies as they come in for the projects.
“In general, we want to consider this neighborhood in concert with the others,” he said. “I think we need to look at these things in context.”
Councilman Bendy White recalled the death of 15-year-old Sergio Romero, who was killed after being struck by a truck as he was crossing Milpas Street in 2011, and the city’s move to improve the Milpas corridor since then.
“That tragedy blended with the birth of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee. … That has started neighborhood involvement at a different level,” he said. “We did get some improvements in right away” after Romero’s death, he said, and that because the city has a plan, projects can be accomplished as funding comes up.
“I believe this is the groundwork for future investments,” he said.
Councilwoman Cathy Murillo said she has been with residents during walk-throughs of the neighborhood.
“These are mothers who don’t have any politics around bulb-outs, they just want to get across the street,” she said. “If we need a bulb-out, let’s put it there.”
Mayor Helene Schneider said she feels like the plan is a working document and that the city isn’t done.
“For me, the end goal is that Ana Rico’s 6-year-old can get anywhere she wants on the Eastside safely,” she said, adding that if she can do it safely, “we probably all can.”