Mike Jordan on Thousand Steps
Santa Barbara City Councilman Mike Jordan represents the Mesa neighborhood that is home to the nearly century-old Thousand Steps. After years of deterioration, the City of Santa Barbara will begin a restoration of the beach access way. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara’s renowned Thousand Steps on the Mesa are set to get a much-needed and long overdue repair and restoration.

“This is a key access point, not just for the neighborhood, but a good amount of drive-in traffic for access to the coastline,” said City Councilman Mike Jordan, whose district includes the steps.

“They serve as a needed access point for people to have access to the water.”

On a 9-0 vote, the Historic Landmarks Commission gave final design approval last week for the city to begin a restoration of the nearly century-old steps, at the end of Santa Cruz Boulevard a block west of Shoreline Park, in time for next summer.

The restoration and repair is expected to cost about $1.1 million.

Plans call for the demolition and repair of the lower 25 steps, and to add another 10 steps at the beach level.

The stairway is made of concrete and descends from an elevation of about 88 feet. The steps are about 4 feet wide and 12 inches in length.

Thousand Steps

Santa Barbara’s Thousand Steps are a popular access way to the beach below the Mesa. In spite of the name, there are not actually 1,000 steps; it just seems that way if you’re at the bottom and need to climb up with a load of gear. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The city wants to install a hand rail along the length of the steps and put in a bike rack with up to eight spots. It also plans to install a new drain to capture and redirect groundwater and to add new trash and recycle receptacles.

There’s no doubt that as of now the steps are dangerous. Water blankets many of them, making the concrete terrain slippery. At the base, the steps are falling apart and eroding. The columns and the foot are cracked.

“There’s quite a bit of corrosion that is happening with the rebar that is falling,” said Justin van Mullem, project supervisor.

The problems get worse during the winter, he added.

“If you haven’t been to the steps lately, especially during the winter when the sand starts to recede, there will be almost a 3½-foot drop to the sand,” Van Mullem said.

Construction is expected to last about eight weeks. It is unclear when it will begin, but it must be completed before the summer. The California Coastal Commission won’t allow the key access way to be closed during the summer season.

The steps are one of Santa Barbara’s most popular beach destinations for locals. Contrary to popular belief, there are not 1,000 of them — more like 157.

Built in 1925, the original name was Camino al Mar, which means Road to the Sea. The Thousand Steps description was coined by the contractor, who said building 157 steps was just like building 1,000.

According to a Historic Resources Report, on April 20, 1923, Mayor J.E. Sloan signed an ordinance to provide the Mesa with a public pedestrian access to the beach known as the “Trail to Beach.”

Later that year, the Parks & Recreation Department was tasked with the design and engineering of a stairway leading from the top of the bluff at the end of the street, approximately 90 feet down through an existing arroyo to the beach.

Jordan noted that the city repaired the Mesa Lane steps a few years ago, so when the Thousand Steps project is completed, the community will have two improved access points to the beach below.

“Maybe one-quarter of our city’s coastline is made up of those two neighborhoods,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.