A Debrief of Mayor Helene Schneider’s Trip to the MICD

A few weeks ago, Mayor Helene Schneider called a small meeting to share the results of her trip to the Mayor’s Institute on City Design (MICD). Nina Dunbar hosted the event at The Arts Fund, and it was a packed house. But, as always, not everyone who would have liked to be there could attend, so the meeting minutes are posted below. Also, make sure to take the time to read the summary of the Mayor’s trip that can be found at the link at the bottom of the page. It is very interesting reading. Once you’ve given it a read through, please post your comments to join the conversation.

Vinatage Funk Zone Shot by J. W. Collinge

Vinatage Funk Zone Shot by J. W. Collinge, circa 1940. Click on the image to see more vintage Santa Barbara photos.

 

Funk Zone Meeting, April 6, 2012
Hosted by The Arts Fund, thank you Nina Dunbar
Notes prepared by Bettie Weiss, City Planner


Mayor Schneider thanked everyone for attending and introduced the purpose of the meeting to share information and suggestions from a Mayors Institute on City Design (MICD) where she brought to that conference questions related to the Funk Zone. She introduced Susan Rogers (SR) from University of Houston/Design Research Center who was one of the lead people at the MICD. Helene Schneider (HS) explained that each of eight Mayors brought an issue or project for group discussion and that the group was supported by various design and finance professionals. The Funk Zone issues were kind of the opposite of what most people looked at in that it was not about building a project, but about the uniqueness of what is The Funk Zone and exploring different ways for the City to support the people living, working and visiting in the area.

Susan Rogers (SR) via conference call walked the group through the Discussion Points (see Funk Zone MICD Summary below). Emphasizing the idea that less government involvement might be the key to helping artists flourish and keep the funkiness. HS – noted she like the “antiguidelines” suggestion that flips our usual approach on its head and could help the area from looking like everywhere else in Santa Barbara SR strongly suggested that the community comprehensively walk through the area and identify what is important, opportunities and constraints. “Streets as Public Places” is a movement that seems fitting to parts of the Funk Zone similar to the Woonerf concept. Great to hear about partnerships and looking for more connections to the community. Encouraged us to Think Big.

Katie Hay commented that some degree of gentrification is likely but they have an interest in improving existing buildings and that is difficult given the codes and review process. A balance is needed to get what people want in terms of maintaining the feel of what is there now and public enhancements. Dialogue is needed with the City in terms of necessary infrastructure – yes for safety, but some flexibility is desired.

Nina Dunbar – asked what are we meaning when we talk about linkages? Several people responded with the physical access links like a paseo connecting the waterfront lots to Anacapa Street, to less defined concepts such as signage. Directory signs could be good.

Laura Inks – what if there was no Sign Committee? Many people interested in having special district with less rules for the Funk Zone – a show of hands went up to support this type of approach (experimentation). Bettie Weiss (BW) responded that the sign ordinance as written now has little flexibility but it could be amended by Council.

Ginny Brush briefly mentioned the Arts Master Plan that is under development and that many of these types of issues (fewer regulations, unique experimental approaches) could be included in the Plan.

Gene McKnight – asked about the City’s regulations on residential density and a highway 101 250 foot setback. BW responded that the density and mixed use standards were set after a long process with the Coastal Commission and that the air quality setback is not firmed up yet but will be focused on moving residential and sensitive receptor uses as far away as possible and to have landscape buffers.

Jason Sunukjian – said the area should remain accessible for locals.

Nathan Vonk passed out Minutes from Funk Zone Neighborhood Meeting #2 where the group offered ideas for a wish list and he noted that many of the ideas are being pursued. Efforts are needed to support the architectural uniqueness and the demographics of the people who live & work in the Funk Zone. SR added look including Laguna Creek in the Funk Zone and she commented that cool things are happening in LA around Silver Lake.

Sharyn Main explained the process that the Streets projects in Sacramento did to look at the regulatory issues first but w/o including the actual agencies at that early stage, then later when the ideas were presented people could see that those typical concerns were being addressed perhaps in different ways.

Katie Hay brought up the parking issue and the difficulty there was with City requirements on the idea to connect a waterfront lot to Anacapa Street. Streetlights and other improvements proved too expensive. Also expressed concern about RVs parking throughout the area taking up limited space. Responded to question about chain stores that this area does not meet their criteria so that particular threat is not likely.

Nina Dunbar – what can be done to keep area affordable? Ginny Brush – pop ups and other non brick & mortar projects making use of public and underutilized spaces. Josh Blumer mentioned “The Slice” in Times Square as one example. Clay Aurell also mentioned the use of streets for artists in Florence. Further noted that a good study of the flow of the area streets, where people walk, dead ends, possible one way streets – this can create opportunity for creative uses of space.

Helene Schneider acknowledged how great the discussion has been, is very encouraged that partnerships are forming and progress is being made, and posed question how to bring this to the City. This group along with others can come up with a comprehensive set of ideas on looking at things differently, including some smaller initial steps. This should at appropriate times be communicated to the various Boards and Commissions and to Council.

Susan Rogers – again thanked Mayor Schneider and thinks this is an exciting opportunity for us – best of luck.

Funk Zone MICD Summary

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