St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara is now a city landmark.
The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to make the designation.
The Historic Landmarks Commission voted to add the church at 502 Olive St. to the city’s Potential Historic Resources List in 1990 because of its architectural style and historical significance. In July 2018, the HLC Designation Subcommittee directed staff to pursue landmark designation of the structure.
The killing of George Floyd, however, forced city leaders to move faster to make the designation. The HLC received 695 letters since Floyd’s death to make the church a landmark.
St. Paul’s AME Church was founded in 1903 and was one of the first African-American churches in Santa Barbara. According to city staff, the church is significant to the architectural heritage of Santa Barbara because it is among few existing buildings constructed in the city in the Carpenter’s Gothic style.
“The Carpenter’s Gothic-style church represents an important icon in the community, with its steeple overlooking the corner of Olive and East Haley Streets,” Nicole Hernandez, the city’s architectural historian, wrote in a staff report for the meeting.
Hernandez said the church has left a moral imprint on the lower Eastside neighborhood.
“Members of the congregation fought restrictive housing covenants and racial discrimination in many forms, including at public beaches, swimming pools and restaurants,” Hernandez wrote.
Members of the church were active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and helped raise legal defense funds to print briefs used in the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case that desegregated public schools, according to Hernandez.
“I am so grateful for this effort and all the advocacy it took to get us to this point,” Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said. “It is our responsibility to do the work and keep learning and keep lifting up our black neighbors.”
The city has 133 landmarks.
Downtown Promenade Extended
The Santa Barbara City Council will allow restaurants to serve alcohol until 12:30 a.m. downtown, in the Funk Zone and on Coast Village Road.
In addition, the council voted to extend the State Street promenade until Dec. 8, with an option for another three months to March 8.
Beaches will be closed over Labor Day weekend, from Saturday to Monday. City officials also will install more and clearer signage about what types of behavior is accepted at the beaches.
The council is trying to do what it can to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The action you took on May 22 to allow for outdoor dining, it saved more than a few restaurants, and I think now we’re asking you to save some of the bars and lounges, which are no longer acting as nightclubs,” said Bob Stout, owner of the Wildcat Lounge and Little Kitchen and president of the Downtown Association of Santa Barbara.
Stout said most of the occupancy levels are between 10 percent and 30 percent, even with outdoor dining.
Some council members wanted to extend it citywide, but a majority decided against that because some restaurants back up to residential areas.
“There’s a finite amount of open spaces we can be doing this in,” Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said. “I am not comfortable going to 12:30 citywide. I don’t feel that is safe.”
Restaurants in other areas of the city would have stop selling alcohol by 10 p.m.
Downtown property owner Richard Berti said he was grateful to the city for its efforts.
“I applaud you,” Berti said. “I hope that we work to make the promenade a real promenade. Right now, we are making the best of what we have, which is not much, but it is better than what it was. It could be a wonderful, magnificent asset to the city.”