Santa Barbara Considers Allowing Expanded Outdoor Business Areas For An Additional 22-Months

Authored on
January 9, 2022

In recognition that the local economy and businesses are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, staff is recommending that Council consider adopting an Economic Recovery Extension and Transition Ordinance. The ordinance would provide an additional 22 months until December 31, 2023 for businesses to operate expanded outdoor business facilities and parklets Citywide, and it authorizes the continued closure of downtown State Street to vehicles while regulatory changes and the State Street Master Plan are in development. The current emergency authority allowing for the temporary use of outdoor business areas on the State Street Promenade, on private property and use of parklets in on-street parking spaces is set to expire on March 8.

When Downtown State Street closed in May 2020, the Fire Department was supportive of a 14½-foot-wide fire access lane with the understanding that the closure was a short-term response to the public health emergency. However, since the closure of Downtown State Street will continue for an additional two years a full operational 20-foot-wide fire access lane is required. Approximately 25 businesses will need to modify their outdoor business facilities from the center of State Street to accommodate the wider fire access lane.

In addition to the summer 2020 closure of Downtown State Street, other streets were partially closed to allow businesses to temporarily expand outdoor dining areas in the roadway. The proposed ordinance requires that those streets reopen to address emergency access and circulation needs. Approximately five businesses will need to transition their outdoor dining facilities into parklets.

Santa Barbara has a robust food service industry, the allowance for businesses to expand temporarily outdoors was a critical response to keep those businesses operational. The extension to continue to allow businesses to operate expanded outdoor facilities will help ensure their continued success. More than 150 businesses have benefited from temporarily expanding the business areas outdoors. Additionally, the creation of the State Street Promenade has been warmly embraced by the community and has added to the vibrancy of downtown.

The City is in the early phase of developing the State Street Master Plan which is expected to be completed in late-2023. Tess Harris, the State Street Master Planner, states, “The State Street Master Plan will utilize urban design and placemaking tactics to further the revitalization of downtown that supports commerce and provides a community gathering place for residents to enjoy their downtown. The City is embarking on an opportunity to be forward-thinking and build off the existing momentum to make downtown more interesting and appealing to everyone.”

The Council Ordinance Committee will review, and Council will consider adopting the Economic Recovery Extension and Transition Ordinance on January 25th.



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