Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber Unveils Vision for Revitalized State Street


The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce announces its vision for the near future of State Street, which could be implemented now. The Chamber has been closely watching the economic vitality of State Street and Santa Barbara’s downtown, working diligently alongside the City, business stakeholders, and community partners to shape the future of this economic center. While the State Street Advisory Committee continues work to design a 20-year master plan, the Chamber is championing a vision that could be implemented immediately.  Programs and decisions enacted now, can offer certainty and leadership needed to improve the local economy while the important planning for the future continues.

How We Got Here

State Street and downtown have faced several challenges over the years, but it is important to remember that things were at their lowest point right before and at the very beginning of the pandemic. The best thing that ever happened to our downtown was the creation of expanded outdoor dining and outdoor business facilities which reinvigorated people’s interest in frequenting downtown. However, over the years that foot traffic and economic vitality has declined while our community has grappled with the decision whether to re-open the street or keep it closed to vehicular traffic, creating a lack of certainty which made a commitment to the betterment of downtown in either direction difficult.

The Chamber proposes the following vision so that these specific ideas can be considered as part of a plan that could be implemented immediately.

Our Vision

Create a dynamic pedestrian downtown that celebrates the spirit of Santa Barbara through diverse experiences and activities, fostering a sense of belonging and engagement for all, while allowing some blocks to re-open to vehicular traffic. We are committed to enhancing the quality of life in Santa Barbara by creating a space that is not only a destination but also a reflection of our community’s values. State Street should be a place where memories are made, connections are formed, locals are proud to frequent, and the vibrant culture of Santa Barbara is celebrated every day.

Create a Grand Paseo

700-800 Blocks (Grand Paseo): Transformed into a Grand Paseo -a vibrant, car-free oasis in the heart of State Street, where community and culture converge.

  • This area would be dedicated exclusively to pedestrians. A narrow lane will be available for walking your bike, ensuring a safe and serene environment free from cars and bikes.
  • A visually appealing entrance will mark the beginning of the area, inviting passersby to explore and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
  • At the heart of the Grand Paseo, we want a portable set of risers and stage (a mini amphitheater) enabled to host a variety of performances and events, bringing arts and entertainment to the community. We recommend adding a pop-up kitchen demonstration structure and area that would serve as a hub for culinary experiences and food and beverage related gatherings. We envision a booth where nonprofits in the region rotate regularly, providing organizations with a platform to promote their events and initiatives, enriching the community’s connection to local causes.
  • The two-block area has ample space for other key activations would like to see:  an area for a dog park, a playground or youth recreation area and intentional space for outdoor dining. Picnic tables would create a space for patrons to enjoy takeout from local eateries. The goal is to have a lively and engaging space for local families, friends, and guests to gather.

Celebrate Lower State

500-Block: Currently the most activated and frequented block of State Street and should remain closed to cars with the current fire lane and bike lanes and continue to accommodate vibrant parklets.

600-Block: Reopen to cars, allowing for vehicular traffic between Ortega and Cota. If the block were to remain closed, we recommend a strategy to intensely activate the block by creating a kid zone or heavily incentivizing increased outdoor business facilities.

Arts District Promenade

These three blocks are redesigned like a boulevard, with planters and trees down the center with bikes and vehicles moving through in a slow, meandering pattern.  Businesses in this area will be encouraged to utilize the sidewalks and streets and much of the current landscaping will be moved to the street.

1200 Block: Open to one-way traffic, while preserving opportunities for outdoor business facilities by creating a meandering bike lane if needed.

1100 Block: Open to one-way traffic, while preserving opportunities for outdoor business facilities by creating a meandering bike lane if needed.

1000 Block: Closed to vehicular traffic. Encouraging outdoor business facilities, particularly outdoor dining. Adding plants and other décor to the street to enhance the promenade feel.

900 Block: Open to two-way vehicular traffic, exploring the possibility of one-side parking,

Support Local Business

Leasing Strategy:  A strategic leasing and incentive plan will attract top businesses, enhancing the area’s economic vitality and ensuring a balanced and thriving commercial landscape. The retail landscape is changing and there should be a focus on the following areas:

  • Diversified Food and Beverage
  • Services and Personal Care
  • Experiential and Hospitality
  • Innovative Retail & Vertically Integrated Entrepreneurs
  • Office and Trade.

Existing businesses will be offered streamlined support to remain and expand if they are in one of the preferred categories above.  New businesses will be offered incentives to open quickly in vacant spaces.

An emergency ordinance, or downtown recovery plan will be implemented for any block that falls below a certain vacancy percentage.  This plan will be immediately implemented on the 900-block.  An economic development team will utilize streamlined permitting and financial incentives to attract businesses in the preferred categories to that block for the storefronts that are empty on the block.

Together, let’s walk, gather, and celebrate State Street, the heartbeat of Santa Barbara.