Change is coming to Coast Village Road — good changes that will enhance and beautify CVR to the standards for which Montecito is known worldwide.

Coast Village Road is the commercial lifeblood of Montecito. This remnant of old Highway 1 has changed over the years from the sleepy 1950s strip to the dynamic commercial star of the South Coast.

I’ve found that most people are unaware that CVR is actually a part of the City of Santa Barbara, not an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County. The downside of that relationship is that we have been largely ignored by the city.

Being the can-do people that we Montecitans are, we are taking it upon ourselves to improve Coast Village Road by the formation of a community improvement district that will raise funds from CVR property owners to make much needed improvements.

This Community Benefit Improvement District will beautify our landscaping, especially the median strip, create better signage, tackle homelessness, improve street and sidewalk cleanliness, aid our businesses with marketing promotions, and more.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought changes to CVR that stand in the way of these improvement goals. Specifically, it’s the restaurant parklets that are the problem.

The City Council deserves credit for coming to the aid of restaurants when they were shut down by pandemic restrictions. But those restrictions were fully lifted on June 15, 2021, and restaurants and bars were and are allowed to operate normally.

The parklets have served their purpose to help restaurateurs, but now they just serve to financially benefit them to the detriment of other businesses.

The municipal ordinance allowing parklets (Emergency Economic Recovery Ordinance No. 5944) clearly states that they are temporary only. When this ordinance expires on Dec. 31, 2023, restaurants are required to remove them.

Now is the time for the city to do something for retailers who also suffered from the pandemic as much as restaurants. A majority of CVR retailers are calling for the removal of the parklets for good reason.

This is why parklets are a problem:

» They reduce parking spaces on a street with no off-street parking. It’s no secret that parking is a big problem on Coast Village Road — street parking is all we have. Parklets only make it worse. As pointed out in a recent letter to the City Council signed by 32 CVR businesses and property owners (including myself), parklets remove 20% of on-street parking spaces. The removal of spaces puts greater pressure on what’s left to the detriment of retailers whose customers have trouble finding parking. Why should restaurants unfairly profit while the rest of businesses suffer?

» Parklets narrow the street and the median areas, which creates a traffic hazard. With the Highway 101 widening and roundabout construction about to worsen CVR’s traffic problems, parklets only make it worse.

» They block foot traffic on sidewalks adjacent to the parklets. Try walking along the street at lunch and dinner times and it’s like walking through a busy restaurant.

» They obscure visibility of adjacent stores. Our retailers work hard to create attractive storefronts to entice shoppers. Blocking visibility of their stores is unfair to them. From the Thomas Fire to the deadly flash flooding and debris flows to the pandemic, small businesses on CVR have been struggling. Parklets are just one more burden piled on them.

» They are an eyesore. We work hard to make our properties and businesses visually appealing. Instead of aesthetically pleasing open vistas as you walk or drive down the street you are met with unsightly temporary structures. Everyone who has lived here a while knows that, but for the pandemic, the City of Santa Barbara would never have allowed parklets that otherwise violate zoning and aesthetic guidelines.

Our family has owned our Coast Village Road property since 1975. We have seen CVR just get better and better over those years. Until the pandemic.

Now that we have our own community improvement district, we want to create our own vision of what CVR should be. And we’ll pay for it.

The City of Santa Barbara should consider our needs separately and not lump us together with State Street. Help us by getting rid of the parklets and let us take the lead. The city owes us that much.

— Jeff Harding is a principal of Montecito Realty Investors LLC and a Coast Village Road property owner. The opinions expressed are his own.