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Santa Barbara News-Press: Coast Village Road vacancy rate drops under 5 percent

May 13, 2019

The storefront vacancy rate along Coast Village Road has dipped below the "healthy" 5 percent threshold, Santa Barbara officials say, but State Street vacancies remain high.

Santa Barbara, California – Published 5/13/2019
By Paul Gonzalez

On Tuesday the Santa Barbara City Council will receive an update on the Accelerate Program, which offers expedited customer service and permitting for businesses on State Street from Cabrillo Boulevard to Sola Street and along Coast Village Road. The council meeting will begin at 2 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

The council will also consider recommendations from the Downtown Economic Vitality Working Group.

According to an agenda report by the City Community Development Department, in April 2018, 8.2 percent of the 145 Coast Village Road storefronts between Hot Springs Road and Olive Mill Road were vacant. That number dropped to 4.8 percent, or seven vacancies, in April.

State Street’s vacancy numbers have been more volatile over the last two years. City staff observed vacancy rates fluctuate from 11 percent in August 2017 to 9 percent in February 2018, then up to 11 percent again in August 2018.

Data compiled by Santa Barbara commercial real estate firm Radius Group show the vacancy rate along State Street at 13.4 percent as of March.

The City Council began the Accelerate Program in August 2017, as part of a comprehensive effort to assist economic revitalization of the State Street corridor. On March 13, 2018, the council expanded the program area to include Coast Village Road in support of recovery efforts for businesses impacted by the Montecito debris flow.

The program is designed to enable property and business owners to move into commercial tenant spaces quickly.

The city has authorized fee waivers for Certified Access Specialist reports and plumbing fixture count reviews from the city Building and Safety Division.

City staff also is expediting applications for short-term “pop-ups,” and is developing a process to allow temporary standardized window signs that meet state and city exemptions for both building permits and Sign Committee review.

“Land Development Team staff will continue to work with property owners and entrepreneurs and assist with establishing a retail presence in a way that requires no permits from the City,” reads the report.

City officials recommend removing Coast Village Road from the Accelerate Program, citing the lower vacancy percentage and the Rosewood Miramar Beach resort reopening.

The Downtown Economic Vitality Working Group was brought together by Community Development Department staff in response to an August 2018 report from the city Administrator’s Office that highlighted the efforts to jump-start downtown Santa Barbara.

The group is composed of downtown business owners, the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from local architectural, construction, planning, and commercial real estate firms.

Their 19 recommendations to the City Council include developing a comprehensive guide that explains the permitting and planning process, “cost of delay” training for city planning department staff, and establishing a downtown geographic zone that provides ordinance and policy allowances for specific uses such as local retail, sit-down food, and beverage establishments.

The council will decide Tuesday whether staff will implement the group’s recommendations. Work on some of the recommendations is already in progress.

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