Column by Lanny Ebenstein, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Sentinel
Whether the Santa Barbara Mission/Mission Canyon neighborhood is preserved in fundamentally its existing form–or is transformed–may be decided in the coming months.
Advocates of a new entrance to Mission Canyon have been remarkably candid about their plans for alteration of this area. Essentially, the existing entrance to Mission Canyon would be obliterated beyond recognition. Mission Canyon Road’s western edge would be moved five to ten feet to the east, and the eastern edge of asphalt, including bike lanes, would be moved about fifteen to twenty feet to the east from Mission Creek Bridge to Puesta del Sol. The total asphalt area would be widened close to half and straightened. Traffic speeds would increase. Raised curbing would be installed in front of the stegosaurus wall on Mission Canyon Road, and the stegosaurus wall would be punctured and (depending on design) perhaps in part moved.
Parts of two other historic walls on and adjacent to East Los Olivos Street and the Mission Creek Bridge would also be moved or removed. A new single-span, prefabricated, steel pedestrian bridge would be placed immediately to the west of the existing stone Mission Creek Bridge which dates originally to the 1800s, and trusses of the new steel pedestrian bridge would extend several feet above the parapet (wall) of the existing stone bridge.
Eastern side pedestrian access would be lost. It no longer would be possible to walk from Rocky Nook Park to the Mission Rose Garden on the eastern side of Mission Canyon Road and Los Olivos.
But the advocates of Mission Canyon entrance alteration seek further radical changes in the upper eastside and Riviera neighborhoods. Though not a part of the current proposal, some transformation proponents seek to build a tunnel under Alameda Padre Serra within dozens of feet of multiple significant historic resources, would redirect Los Olivos Street into Mission Historical Park at Laguna Street, and would build a new pedestrian walk-through immediately in front of and between some of the oldest and most historic California construction–the old Mission reservoirs that date to 1806.
These plans must be stopped. Plan opponents support far milder changes to the Mission Canyon–upper eastside–Riviera neighborhoods that would improve safety, access, and aesthetics, at far less cost. The Coalition to Preserve Mission Canyon (of which this writer is a part) will present plans in the coming months for improving the existing corridor.
Many oppose the effort to transform the entrance to Mission Canyon–including former County Supervisor Frank Frost, naturalist and preservationist Paulina Conn, Randy Reetz, Neal Graffy, Fran Galt, Carol Le Gassick, Barbara Hoffman, Pam Boehr, Kevin Rivera, and many others.
Importantly, also to express strong doubts about the Mission Canyon reconfiguration plan are Santa Barbara City Historic Landmarks Commissioners Michael Drury and Fermina Murray. At a meeting earlier this year, Mr. Drury could not have been more clear that he thinks this Mission Canyon proposal would devastate historic resources. Ms. Murray did not see a single reason to adopt the plan. Also, Commissioner Craig Shallenberger raised the crucial question of whether impacts from the plan should be classified as Class I, which would essentially stop the proposal.
In the coming weeks, the historic landmarks report is projected to return to the City Historic Landmarks Commission for its consideration. These meetings will provide the opportunity to examine this radical proposal, that would so greatly diminish Santa Barbara, further.
Few people realize that, through the early 1800s, the leading center of population in the area was in the vicinity of the Santa Barbara Mission. More people (mostly the Chumash) lived here than in the immediate vicinity of the Presidio. The area now proposed for alteration and transformation truly is the most historic part of Santa Barbara.
In the past, the people of Santa Barbara have always risen up when proposals have been made that would mar the historic and natural beauty of our area. The Mission Canyon alteration and transformation plan–which would, again according to advocates, in time extend to the Riviera and upper eastside neighborhoods–is the most significant proposal for decades that would greatly lessen valuable and irreplaceable historic and environmental resources.
The Santa Barbara City Historic Landmarks Commission would do the community a great service–and would protect the historic resources that are the charge of the Commission to defend–by turning this proposal down. There is no reason to waste millions of taxpayer’s dollars on a plan that would only make things worse.