A Solution to the Coast Village Road Parking Wars: Who Wins? Who Loses? Restaurants, Retailers, or the Community?

By Bob Hazard   |   September 6, 2022

Coast Village Road (CVR), though ceded to the City of Santa Barbara in 1960, remains an iconic pillar of the Montecito lifestyle. The CVR streetscape offers sophisticated dining, boutique shopping, historic hotels, real estate brokers, drugstores, medical offices, professional services, hair salons, banks, business offices – and yes, even a modern, high-priced combination gas station, car wash, and convenience store to serve Montecito’s 9,500 residents and at least an equal number of visitors. How does it feel to live in Montecito and be completely left out of all future planning decisions regarding the commercial heartbeat of our Village?

There is not a single person in Montecito who dines out regularly who does not enjoy gracious outdoor dining in the pleasant parklets at Ca’Dario, Lucky’s, Tre Lune, Jeannine’s, Coast & Olive, Renaud’s, Mesa Burger, Bree’Osh, and the Folded Hills Winery. They join the Honor Bar, Los Arroyos, the China Palace, Local, Oliver’s, the Montesano Deli, Starbucks, and Bettina, all of which offer outdoor dining in one of the most outdoor-friendly climates in the world.

There is also not a single resident of Montecito who is not concerned about the survival of an amazing array of some 70 boutique salons, jewelry stores, galleries, fashion emporiums, and retail shops along Coast Village Road, battered by a shortage of parking and the added traffic congestion created by an unwise City decision five years ago to close the southbound Cabrillo/Hot Springs on-ramp to the 101, diverting all departing city beach traffic through CVR to enter the 101 at Olive Mill Road.

City Parking Summit at the Montecito Inn

As reported in the Montecito Journal, Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse met with some 30 CVR businessowners and restaurant patrons on August 12, 2022, in the Conference Room at the Montecito Inn to discuss the fate of parklets on CVR. The Santa Barbara City Council received a letter signed by 25 business owners and seven property owners on CVR requesting removal of parklets. 

City Councilmember Kristen Sneddon, whose District 4 includes Coast Village Road, has already condemned the parklets saying, “They served a really important function during the height of the pandemic and customers still love eating outdoors, but now the parking loss is severely impacting retailers and services along the corridor. Coast Village has unique impacts because of the tight, angled parking and there really are limited other options.” Sneddon was noticeably absent at the Montecito Inn meeting.

Santa Barbara ordinance 6055, adopted on February 1, 2022, extending parklets on CVR expires on December 31, 2023. Without renewal, restaurants will be required to remove their popular parklets.

Retail Owner’s View

Retailers argue persuasively that more people are shopping post-COVID and that CVR shops and boutiques need more parking spaces and less traffic congestion to succeed, especially in the late afternoon and early evening. In reality, the lack of adequate CVR parking predates the parklets and the COVID pandemic. Unlike State Street, Coast Village Road does not have the benefit of public parking garages. 

Kevin Frank, owner of K. Frank, the men’s and women’s clothing store that once occupied State Street and moved with great success to Coast Village Road a few years ago, notes: “CVR parking is a sensitive subject but I’m supportive of reimagining the manner in which Coast Village Road operates. We can create an environment more conducive to outdoor dining as long as it is balanced by easier and more convenient parking for every business on the street. We’ve been bugging the city for years to help redesign and reimagine our medians, our traffic flow, and our parking situation. In the grand scheme of things, we can accept outdoor dining, but only if we can provide more parking spaces for retail shops than those removed to accommodate the restaurant parklets. The current parklet arrangement is detrimental to our business.”

Restaurant Owner’s View

Diners prefer outside seating. More restaurant seating brings more foot traffic to local shops. Removing the parklets would free up only 28 parking spaces, a pittance of the new parking spaces needed. Mandating the removal of some 253 highly desirable outside restaurant seats would devastate restaurants, reduce street foot traffic, threaten retail survival, and contribute lower property taxes, sales taxes, and hotel taxes to the city coffers.

Restaurants on CVR face shrinking profit margins. Food costs have skyrocketed. Labor costs, if restaurants can find hospitality workers, have doubled with mandated government wage increases and added benefits to attract young people who refuse to find jobs. 

The Best CVR Parking Solutions

According to Bob Ludwick, President of the Coast Village Association, “Coast Village Road is comprised of approximately 55 buildings, more than 25 restaurants, as many as 70 retail establishments, and 600 residents, with a large number of employees and diverse workers from bus boys to title insurers. Everyone’s livelihood is at stake. The urgency for change depends on how alarming the crisis is from your point of view.”

Ludwick adds, “We have 192 public parking spaces along CVR. We’re going to lose four more to the Olive Mill roundabout when it comes in. When private parking is counted, including access to Coast Village Circle, the number of parking spots climbs to 300 or more.”

Why waste time choosing who the City wants to punish? – restaurants, retailers, or customers. They all need more parking. CVR needs 40 to 80 new parking spaces now. Solve that problem… and keep the popular parklets that have brought new energy, new excitement, and new satisfied customers to the Coast Village Road dining experience.

Solution #1: Provide Permanent Garage Parking on the Bottle Shop Liquor Store Site at 1200 Coast Village Road and the Former Cava Restaurant Site (Long-Term Parking Solution). Net Gain: at least 60 new parking spaces.

The Bottle Shop Liquor Store at 1200 CVR, a former gas station at the corner of Coast Village Road and Middle Road, would be a convenient, centralized location for added parking. 

Sitting next door at 1212 CVR, the now-closed Cava restaurant, was once the office for a repurposed motor court. Still looming behind the now-closed Cava is the two-story former motor court room block. 

Work with each of the three (or more) real estate parcels; consider eminent domain to acquire the sites. Follow the lead of the Price Building on the same north side of CVR at the gateway to Montecito. The removal of the former ARCO gas station was bitterly opposed by some in Montecito. Now we are blessed with an architectural gem, that perfectly complements the historic Montecito Inn. With its wine tasting parklet at street level, retail shops on the ground floor, and residences and offices on the upper levels, the Price building adds charm to the Montecito character and lifestyle.

Envision a similar architecturally-pleasant building on a new scraped site, done in the same soft-style of mixed use as the Price office building, with retail on the ground floor (i.e., the Bottle Shop, a Cava-type restaurant, and other tax-producing retail); an underground level of parking accessible from Middle Road and CVR; a second floor of public parking; a 3rd floor of either public parking or residential, and a high-end rooftop restaurant, similar to the San Ysidro Ranch Stonehouse Restaurant, side-by-side with the Plow & Angel, with possible rooftop dining views of Butterfly Beach.

Solution #2: Double Deck the Private Parking Lot Behind CVS Pharmacy: 1282 Coast Village Road (Northside Parking). Net gain: 35 to 40 new parking spaces.

In the ground level parking lot behind the CVS pharmacy (not the side parking next to Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurant) there are currently 30 ground-level parking spaces loosely laid out, with five spaces reserved for Fidelity National. Add a second deck, financed by the City from CVR tax abatements, to accommodate another 35 to 40 new parking spaces, to reduce the valet parking congestion at Lucky’s, Los Arroyos, and Coast & Olive. Fund the project through creative city tax abatements or fees, or both.

Solution #3: Double Deck the Private Parking Deck behind Angel: 1221 Coast Village Road and the 1224 Coast Village Circle Office Building (Southside Parking). Net gain: 25 new parking spaces

Add a second-story parking deck behind Angel at 1221 CVR and the office building at 1224 Coast Village Circle. Create 25 new CVR level parking spaces above the covered parking structure for the 1224 office tenants. Provide an innovative city financing package based on tax abatements. 

Bottom Line for Coast Village Road

Between an entrepreneurial Santa Barbara Mayor in Randy Rowse, intimately familiar with the restaurant business, who for 37 years owned the Paradise Cafe; Santa Barbara Downtown Manager Brian Bosse; Bob Ludwig, Rob Miller, and Thorn Robertson, officers of the “shop-local” Coast Village Association; Danny, Jim,and Jason Copus, owners of the Montecito Inn and the Coast & Olive Restaurant; Gene Montesano, Jimmy Argyropoulos, and Herb Simon, owners of Lucky’s, Tre Lune, and the Montesano Deli; Janet Garufis, chair of the Montecito Bank & Trust; 50 or more entrepreneurial boutique shopping professionals; plus great architects; there is ample brainpower and innovation to solve this small parking problem with a win/win solution for both restaurants and shops, especially if the City solicits the advice of John Price, owner of the Price Building at the Olive Mill entrance to Coast Village Road as to how to fast-track site acquisition, design approval, and regulatory review to substantially lower approval and legal costs to the City.  


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