Santa Barbara's State Street, pre- and post-pandemic.
Santa Barbara's State Street, pre- and post-pandemic. Credit: Pomona Consulting Group photos

Like all of Santa Barbara, 21-year-old Jake Ballantine has watched State Street transform during the past several years. He was inspired to lead the consulting project for what the city should keep in mind for its downtown street.

Ballantine, a junior at Pomona College majoring in politics and economics, is the managing director for the Pomona Consulting Group, a club through the college in Claremont where students can partner with businesses and organizations to work on consulting projects. 

This past semester, the Santa Barbara native led a community outreach project for the State Street Master Plan. Ballantine and his group surveyed more than 250 community members during the process and synthesized their findings into a presentation.

Ballantine originally worked with the City of Santa Barbara when creating the survey and hopes that the findings from his group’s community outreach project can contribute to the State Street Master Plan.

“Pretty much what our role was, was to help out with community engagement,” Ballantine said. 

He said the group’s plan was to first interview “experts” and then survey the greater population about what the State Street project should look like. 

The group conducted six interviews with the experts, who worked on similar projects in other California cities, including San Francisco, Long Beach, Torrance and Grass Valley.

In order to collect data on the greater population, the group sent out a survey and collected more than 250 responses from high school students, college students and senior citizens who lived in the area over the course of six weeks. 

Santa Barbara's State Street.
An outreach project gathered input from experts and others about Santa Barbara’s State Street. Credit: Grace Kitayama / Noozhawk photo

“We were trying to focus on underrepresented groups,” Ballantine said.

Out of 250 people surveyed, 73% were in college, 12% were in high school and about 15% were senior citizens. 

There were three areas of focus for which respondents believed State Street could be improved: putting in a multi-use bike, skateboard and scooter lane; more public facilities such as restrooms, water fountains, trash cans and accessibility ramps; and flexibility on the street for events such as annual parades and outdoor markets. 

“A lot of our respondents — actually, I think the vast majority — said they’d like some sort of clear demarcation between lanes if there’s non-motorized vehicles on the street,” Ballantine said.

In general, he said, respondents enjoyed the parklets on the street. 

“And they only kind of want more of that from the city,” Ballantine said, adding that it includes more community events and green spaces.

The results also showed that 84% of respondents visit State Street at least once per week, 85% of respondents enjoy State Street being closed off to motor vehicles and 72% of respondents favor designated lanes for non-motorized vehicles. 

The respondents also said they wanted to remain updated on the progress of the project and its timelines.

In terms of transportation, 65% of respondents use cars to reach State Street, while less that 10% use public transportation and 60% of respondents do not notice any issue with traffic congestion near downtown Santa Barbara.

In addition, 31% of respondents said a target feature of State Street is the outdoor dining and parklets, 27% said it was because of the green spaces, and 23% of respondents said they were drawn to State Street because of the community events.

In terms of amenities people wish to see on State Street, 64% said they want to see more benches and public seating, 45% want clean water fountains and 44% want increased waste containers.

Respondents said they enjoyed State Street because of its “European” feel, as well as its “free space” with the road closures.

Respondents felt frustrations with the lack of parking close to State Street and having to share the road with cyclists and skateboarders. They also voiced a desire for more public restrooms, water fountains and benches to complement the parklets.

Senior respondents liked that State Street was closed to vehicles. However, the lack of parking spaces that are accessible to the disabled was something seniors found difficult. They also expressed a desire for increased sidewalks with accessible ramps.

Ballantine said he hopes his contributions will be helpful with the State Street Master Plan and that it will allow for more Santa Barbara residents to see how the project progresses.

“It’s a community-based project,” Ballantine said. “Community members should be able to kind of see the results and see what kind of work is being done on this.”

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Grace Kitayama, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Grace Kitayama is a Noozhawk staff writer.