Possible Revitalization of De la Guerra Plaza, Share Your Voice!

by Anne Petersen

Anne Petersen spoke about the history of the Plaza during the opening remarks at the March 9 public workshop at Casa de la Guerra. Photo by Kevin McGarry.

The City of Santa Barbara recently announced intentions to explore a revitalization effort in De la Guerra Plaza.  The project could include changes to landscaping/hardscaping, lighting, parking and more.     As the owners and operators of Casa de la Guerra, which anchors the north side of the Plaza, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation is an invested stakeholder in this process.  We hosted the City’s first public outreach workshop at Casa de la Guerra on March 9th, and at the March 26th City Council meeting SBTHP was added to the De la Guerra Plaza Subcommittee, which also includes City Council members, and Commissioners from Parks and Recreation, Planning, Historic Landmarks, and the Farmer’s Market Association.

The meetings of the Subcommittee will be public.  You can follow activity on the Plaza project by visiting the City’s webpage for De la Guerra Plaza here.  On this page, you can sign up for updates and click through to many helpful resources.

We encourage you to stay informed on this project and share your thoughts with the City.  This historic place was designated a public square in 1853, and belongs to the citizens of Santa Barbara. It’s our job to make sure that it continues to meet the needs of the citizens today.

Anne Petersen is the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

3 thoughts on “Possible Revitalization of De la Guerra Plaza, Share Your Voice!”

  1. Hello SBTHP,

    I commented on your WordPress site for this post but cannot my comment nor any others on the subject .?

    Please send a link to the comments on this, and I would like to re-read mine to make sure I edited correctly…

    Thanks, Fred Hill

  2. My input regarding de la Guerra Plaza is that one shouldn’t change the apple. The Plaza is a wonderful gathering place which should remain as it is. The eye sore shack needs to go and the flags always need to be fresh. No changes. No street closing.
    Pamela Jameson Boehr
    4th generation family member to call Santa Barbara home.
    And we’re neighbors at the Gates Building, A Structure of Merit in El Pueblo Viejo at 707 Anacapa Street.

  3. Plaza de la Guerra is a wonderful community space functioning at about 10% of its full potential. I’ve visited Santa Barbara many times, and have had a chance to experience it over several decades now. The nearby Paseo and Street in Spain, as well as the Casa de la Guerra, really could combine to make an urban hole.

    The plaza really should be an ‘urban oasis’ and the businesses fronting should try to adjust. Change is always difficult, but it can be re-invigorating.

    Something as simple as a traffic plan can help deal with the objections that traffic is ‘messed up’ every time there is a local event. Further up the coast in Vancouver Canada you will find the example of Granville Island, a revitalized industrial district, that safely mixed pedestrians and traffic. Same takes place at Seattle’s Pike Place market—the birth place of Starbucks. People, cars and delivery trucks all mix together just fine. And the major businesses have learned to make their back doors their front doors, or their front doors their loading bays (off-hours, early and late in the day). Adjustments were necessary, but the outcomes proved them worthwhile.

    State Street will continue to function as the main traffic backbone. There is a great advantage to locating a ‘people place’ within a half-block or so of the arterial. It funnels pedestrians looking to gather and sit around off the Main Street where they are a burden to traffic flow. It’s a win-win, since the people on foot (which came by car anyway) get a place to mill around.

    The ‘patio’ that forms the front yard of Casa de la Guerra of course is an extension of the plaza. This should not be lost to the designers as they seek to create a uniform and curb-free ground plan over the entire area.

    It was a visionary move for the residents of the city to elect to build in the Spanish Style after the earthquake of 1925. What has been created is truly magnificent. But it has one major flaw—the urbanism here as elsewhere is over-run by autos.

    The notion of the urban oasis is one I support. An oasis where people can move about an urban precinct without having to think about cars. You’ve experienced it all over Southern California on those nights where the streets shut down and the people take over.

    In Santa Barbara you have a huge opportunity to realize a tiny urban footprint that functions the same way more or less all year round.

    Do it! Get infected with the spirit of civic pride! You’ll never look back. Just like they never did back in 1925.

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