The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday agreed to a three-year pilot program for electric bikes and docking stations along the State Street promenade. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)
The Historic Landmarks Commission can wait.
Bypassing its own design rules, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday agreed to a three-year pilot program for electric bikes and docking stations along the State Street promenade.
The vote was 7-0.
“I am not willing to let the pursuit of perfect be an enemy of the good,” Councilman Mike Jordan said. “This is so potentially good that I am happy to make a mistake and have to fix it rather than keep putting this through a process.”
Rob Dayton, the city’s transportation, planning and parking manager, said electric bikes help improve community health, reduce carbon emissions and provide affordable “point-to-point” options for users.
At meetings over the summer, the proposal went before the Historic Landmarks Commission for review, and members raised questions about whether the bikes and docks make sense at this time because the street is in flux during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the future of the street is unknown, it might not be the best time to approve the program, members said. The commission rejected the bike proposal. In response, Dayton took the matter to the City Council on Tuesday as a “temporary measure.”
“Just like those temporary measures,” Dayton said, “bike share would also be temporary in the street. Not permanent. We would fit the bikeshare in, next to the restaurants on the street.”
Dayton said there would be about six bikes per block. No docks would be installed in the 500 block, which is the busiest part of State Street.
Historic Landmarks Commission member Anthony Grumbine said it would be better if the commission and the city collaborated.
“Although certain things seem nitpicky at times, there are all these rules that we have and process that there is, and often there is frustration for people, and I totally get it,” Grumbine said. “At the same time, our process is such that we are dealing with a very high-caliber level of city, and we are trying to keep those standards high. It is hard when oftentimes we are seen like the big meanies when we say no to something because of wrong colors and other things, but at the same time, everyone currently benefits from a beautiful city that has come about from great processes.”
The council members were so impressed with Grumbine’s comments that they invited him to work with the city’s State Street Subcommittee, which is discussing issues of how State Street will look as part of its temporary promenade for the next couple of years.
The Santa Barbara City Council, meeting virtually on Tuesday, discusses the bike pilot program.
Last December, the city announced that it planned to partner with vendor BCycle, with an initial rollout of 250 bicycles by May. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and the implementation was delayed.
The City Council closed State Street to vehicles to allow restaurants to expand their outdoor seating after Gov. Gavin Newsom said they could no longer serve indoors at the height of the pandemic in March and April.
The closure of State Street spurred wide impacts for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. The downtown portion of the street is practically unrecognizable from less than a year ago.
Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo said she supported moving forward with the bicycle plan.
“I believe these vehicles are safer than scooters,” Murillo said. “This program will fulfill the need to move people from place to place on State Street. I work at City Hall, and what if I want to run up to the 1300 block? It’s perfect, and it would help retail if you wanted to go and pick up an item. These are temporary installments. We really need to take advantage of the public’s interest and involvment on State Street.”