Santa Barbara’s State Street Consultant Contract Could Balloon to $800,000 – Noozhawk

Wednesday, June 8 , 2022, 2:20 pm | Fair with Haze 66º
Cost of request for proposal for sweeping redesign project looks likely to double from city staff’s initial estimate
A consultant to help redesign State Street in downtown Santa Barbara could cost as much $800,000, double the $400,000 that was originally floated by city staff.
The deadline for the request for proposals for the master plan is Thursday. It’s the second version of the request, known as an RFP, because the original that the city put out did not contain a specific dollar cap.
Inside City Hall, the projected budget at the time was between $200,000 and $400,000.
“Originally, the RFP did not include a budget target,” said Tess Harris, the city’s State Street master planner. “We realized quickly that while we are looking for the best possible proposals, proposals that come in with large ranges in cost would be challenging to compare and potentially unrealistic from a budget perspective.”
The $800,000, she said, would provide a maximum budget that “will better enable us to address these issues effectively and have a robust public engagement process.”
The City Council must still approve the consultant’s funding.
The city discovered that its original scope of work was too much for the dollar amount it had floated. Potential bidders at an RFP informational session on Jan. 28 indicated that the cost would be much higher — more than $1 million — for the work the city was requesting. So the city revised the scope of work and raised the budget cap to $800,000.
The city wants to hire a consultant to work with the State Street Master Plan Committee on a plan that reimagines and redesigns State Street downtown. Among the goals are to revitalize the downtown area, facilitate downtown housing, revitalize the local economy, create a safer experience focused on people, recapture downtown’s identity and redesign it for locals.
The goal is to also create a welcoming environment for art, music and culture, along with open place spaces, and provides safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and people of all abilities to move up and down State Street.
The RFP suggests that State Street should have “recognized districts, a park-like experience, a gathering place for the community, and a connection to side streets and the beach.”
Santa Barbara was forced to take a sudden look at State Street after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the immediate closure of all nonessential businesses and limited restaurants to take-out dining only, before eventually allowing dining outside.
The city took advantage of the circumstances to abruptly close 13 blocks of State Street to vehicles and allow restaurants to move dining outdoors. Although the changes brought people back downtown and revitalized certain blocks, it created safety concerns with pedestrians, bicyclists and dog walkers all sharing the same space, just a few feet — or less — from where people were eating.​
The city also didn’t consider fire safety and emergency access when it initially allowed restaurants to expand their operations into the street. As a result, tables, chairs and plants meandered toward the middle of the street.
Keep up with Noozhawk’s daily COVID-19 coverage, delivered at 4:15 a.m. right to your inbox.
Earlier this year, the city ordered restaurants to move tables closer to the sidewalks to free up at least 14 feet of space in the middle for fire engine access.
At the same time, many of Santa Barbara’s old guard have expressed concerns about the aesthetics of State Street, as have business owners who are outside the State Street zone.
None of the changes went through the traditional review process, such as the Historic Landmarks Commission, which could weigh in and provide feedback on the mishmash of restaurant outdoor design configurations.
The general public doesn’t seem to care as much, however, with evenings and weekends frequently packed with a younger demographic enjoying a night on the town.
The State Street Master Plan Committee is made up of 13 citizens and is chaired by Dave Davis, who served as the city’s community development director and city planner for nearly 25 years. Davis says the project is a historic opportunity and recommends that the city not rush or try to complete the redesign on the cheap.
When he joined the committee, Davis said, he was told by then-City Administrator Paul Casey that there was a budget of $500,000 set aside for the redesign. After the January meeting, consultants said the scope of work outlined in the RFP was as much as $1.4 million.
“We don’t want to go over $800,000,” Davis said.
According to Davis, the public participation process should be equal to that of creating a municipal general plan.
“This is not a short-term deal,” he said. “This is looking out 20 to 30 years. We are looking long term for the city.
“This needs to be a major community planning process. Being careful is better.”
Realistically, Davis said, a community process is going to take at least 18 months.
City Councilwoman Meagan Harmon, whose District Six includes much of State Street downtown, said redesigning the corridor will require “a significant investment.”
“I’m confident that if we make a meaningful investment now — if we do the work thoroughly and completely, with broad community engagement from the start — we will produce a master plan that is a blueprint for a revitalized and reimagined State Street that will serve the whole city for generations to come,” she said.
Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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