CPA Comments on HLC Plans for DelaGuerra Plaza

February17. 2021

To the Historic Landmarks Commission:

Citizens Planning Association has been active for more than 60 years, working to protect Santa Barbara. We have followed with interest the Plaza de la Guerra revitalization project, at the first public presentation in the courtyard of the Casa de la Guerra and then viewing many of the Zoomed committee hearings. In addition, we invited project manager Brad Hess to give a presentation by Zoom of what the committee decided. It was informative and we appreciated his presentation. Subsequently, our board met and discussed.

The Plaza de la Guerra is the historic center, the heart of our city. On that point the De La Guerra Plaza Revitalization Design Advisory Committee and CPA agree, but we diverge on some of the details of what that means. Anything that’s done, any ‘revitalization” must take into consideration and honor our city’s history. We appreciate there’s a present need to make the Plaza more welcoming to all people. We also appreciate that it is the public center, the place for residents to gather, to protest, Santa Barbara’s Hyde Park, perhaps. Also, of course, there’s bustling State Street less than half a block away. And last, but not at all least, Fiesta!

With such competing demands we think that the primary consideration must be the Plaza’s history, that any design feature, no matter how coveted, should be viewed in the context of appropriateness to its location adjacent to City Hall and across the street from the revered Casa de la Guerra. We also think that most tourists come to Santa Barbara expecting a city that respects its past.

We would prefer the grassy open space to continue rather than be converted to more hardscape. At least in part. The sole remaining Washingtonia palm must be respected and we are concerned about any possible relocation of such an old tree. We fail to see any merit in having a splash pad in this location. That’s a feature much more appropriate for city parks and playgrounds than our central Plaza. In addition, the excavation would be detrimental to the palm. We like the lighting plans, making the Plaza more welcoming at night. We are of mixed opinions about the removal of parking, but if it is removed, we suggest that the parking lot to the east, now devoted to city employees, be opened to all the public.

We will continue to follow this project and with great appreciation for your work.

Respectfully, Marell Brooks, President of Citizens Planning Association