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Fluctuations in Eastside Business Area A Function Of Market Forces. Really!

Milpas on the Move, By Sharon Byrne

BID-Poster-GraphicThere is an effort underway in the Milpas / Eastside business area to create a Business Improvement District (BID). Numerous BIDs have been formed in California and other states, as they provide a mechanism for businesses to pay for services that the city can’t and won’t provide them, like picking up litter off sidewalks, graffiti removal, and promotion and special events to draw new patrons to the area. Jeff Harding wrote a really good piece on the Eastside BID in March.

It is typical for a minimum 20% of businesses to oppose forming a BID. For a variety of reasons, some business owners will just never sign up. It’s also typical for BID formation to bring out the best and the worst in people, rather like ballot initiatives. As you can tell from my column on the destructive power of gossip and the PODER protest of El Bajio, the worst can be pretty darned ugly.

Jeff dealt with the red herring of gentrification quite well in his column. I’ll only add that the example thrown around of Fresh Market is a poor one. There is no BID, and they moved in. They provided Christmas lights for us in 2013 (a $9,000 expense). They put on fun events for kids, like cookie-decorating contests. They handed out goodies at the Milpas Holiday Parade. Their intent was to draw Whole Foods and Lazy Acres customers, and it worked. They went profitable 6 months ago at the Milpas location. Some whined it wasn’t a neighborhood store, but Fresh Market employed many former Scolari’s employees. Eastside neighbors shopped there. They had a brisk lunch trade from employees at nearby businesses. Interestingly, Scolari’s also exited the state of California for the same reason Fresh Market did: expensive distribution issues. California is a very tough state to do business in.

I’ve had phone calls asking what’s going in the Fresh Market space that go like this: THEY should put in a market that’s for the neighborhood this time, like there’s some central government planning committee somewhere that decides which market goes in each neighborhood. But that’s not how it works. That space rents for $55,000 per month. A business that can meet those terms leases it, transforms it to suit their needs, and attempts to prosper there. Some things make it in this town. Some don’t. It’s the landlord’s prerogative as to which business moves in, and they aren’t required to check in with any Central Neighborhood Approvals Committee before leasing their property. We’re not a centrally planned economy like China. Free market still reigns in America.

I am happy to report that some of the Fresh Market employees were picked up by Tri County Produce, and Wells Fargo is recruiting some as well. This is what you do in a community. You take care of each other.

Another myth perpetuating about the business improvement district is that this is some sort of takeover of the area. A takeover of a business area…by the businesses within it? Aren’t takeovers usually external? The businesses in this district will govern the BID. They’ll decide which services to provide themselves with BID assessments. That’s not a takeover. It’s the spread of democracy within the business community.

Fresh Market’s departure creates another heartburn: empty storefronts are blight magnets. A business improvement district could seek out tenants for vacant storefronts. Some do. A BID could get also creative about attracting the type of business the community wants. A small town with empty storefronts painted the windows to make it appear that an ice cream store had opened, and a cheese shop, among other things. Sure enough, someone started similar businesses in those empty storefronts.

Fresh & Easy is also going through tumultuous times as a corporation. Ours on Milpas is staying open, thankfully.

The old Milpas Post Office has been leased to Lumber Liquidators. East Beach Tacos has opened at the Batting Cages. The ambience is great, and the Asian-fusion tacos are excellent.

Change is happening all around this district, and it will keep happening. The BID didn’t cause those things, as it doesn’t exist yet. But by providing a more welcoming area and drawing more patrons to businesses here, existing businesses will find it easier to prosper. There are lots of mom-and-pop businesses in this neighborhood that make it special. Why wouldn’t we want them to succeed?


When Santa Barbara Trembled

“Two main faults delineate the onshore portion of the southern foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains near Santa Barbara,” writes historian Walker Tompkins. “The western or Mesa Fault is an offshoot, or splay, that can be traced as a nearly straight line southeast from Tucker’s Grove County Park, along the north side of the uplifted mesa, and continuing on out to near the harbor breakwater. The Mission Ridge Fault continues east of the city through Sycamore Canyon and runs in a southernly direction to eventually link up with the Arroyo Parida Fault north of Ortega Hill, passing directly to represent the near surface expressions of a much deeper fault system that extends beneath the mountain range, the Santa Barbara Channel, and crops south of the northern Channel Islands.”

Here’s a new look at what was left of Santa Barbara after the June 29, 1925 earthquake.


Two Years of the Hot Rod Limo

Santa-Barbara-Hot-Rod-Limo11On the topic of tourist vehicles buzzing around Santa Barbara’s waterfront and downtown region, how about a birthday shout out to the Hot Rod Limo. The custom-built, colorful vehicle which seats 8 people and the driver debuted two years ago this week. The Hot Rod Limo offers 40-minute coastal tours of Santa Barbara for $20. The “hottest ride in town” departs from corner of Cabrillo and Garden every hour between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.


Santa Barbara’s New Party Bike!

photoOn Saturday, Dan captured one of the many tourists toys buzzing around the waterfront and downtown region. Today, a new pedal-powered party bike debuts in Santa Barbara‘s Funk Zone… “Pedal On is a 16-person mega bike to pedal and party around the City—It’s a BYOB hangout from bar to bar.” The rolling party bike comes equipped with flashing neon lights and bumping sound. It can hold 16 riders while up to 10 can pedal.

“I’ve been on a Pub Crawler before, said one reviewer. “I have to note that Pedal-On’s bike is a lot newer with a good sound system (speakers were distributed throughout the bike) and the seats were better (they had back rests). Also, we just had one driver then so we had to take care of beer distribution and whatnot ourselves.”

Santa Barbara is the fourth City to sanction Pedal On; in addition to Austin, San Diego and Fort Lauderdale. You can even bring your own food on Pedal On. They have two storage space and two built in coolers that have plenty of room for your food and beverages. So, if you are looking for a new and exciting way to have fun, hop on Santa Barbara’s new party bike!
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Stearn’s Wharf Gets Its Apostrophe!

After decades of confusion by City sign makers, tourists and wharf businesses, Stearn’s Wharf (formerly Stearns Wharf) finally gets its apostrophe. Yesterday, at their weekly meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council issued a formal declaration making Stearns Wharf, Stearn’s Wharf. Although grammatically incorrect, the proclamation should decrease confusion. Completed In 1872, the wharf became the longest deep-water wharf between San Pedro and San Francisco. Named for its builder, local lumberman John Peck Stearns, the wharf is Santa Barbara’s top tourist destination.

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Mandatory Helmets for Adult Bike Riders?

A law, Senate Bill 192, would make California the first state in the country to require that adult bike riders wear helmets. The newly-proposed law would impose a $25 base fine on adults who bike without headgear. Bicycling safety has been a long-simmering debate here in Santa Barbara, so let’s make it the question of the week and see what Viewers have to say:


Your New District Election Map Santa Barbara

After months of surveys and forums, draft 3 was chosen as the new district election map for Santa Barbara. Six regions, with about 14,500 people in each district. In all likelihood, Districts one and three will be on the ballot this fall… now let the candidates declare! (click to enlarge)
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PODER Receives Cease and Desist Letter

poder_1Santa Barbara View published a controversial  flyer which was purportedly used as PODER’s Facebook cover art. According to their page, “PODER represents a constituency of oppressed and marginalized people the dominant Santa Barbara establishment has grown used to bullying and intimidating.” In response to the Facebook artwork, the Santa Barbara News-Press has reportedly sent a “cease and desist all copyright and trademark infringement” email to the group. The cover artwork has been replaced but the image still shows in the group photos.


View from the Top of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
View From the Top of Santa Barbara

A beautiful view over Santa Barbara. This is one of the most amazing spots in Santa Barbara. The top of the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Clock Tower. From here you can see from one end of the city to the other, The Mission to the Ocean. This particular angle is overlooking the sunken gardens of the courtyard with the Pacific Ocean on the right.

But before you grab your camera and head over there, you should know that currently the tower is closed for construction work. In a few months however, you’ll be able to take the elevator all the way to the top. Which will be a great help for many people who found the tight climb up the last story above where the elevator dropped them off too much of a barrier to enjoy this amazing spot.

In the mean time I will do my best to bring the beautiful views to you.

-Bill Heller