Noozhawk: SB Council Allows Coast Village Assoc. Assessment District to Move Forward

Coast Village Road is cruising.

The Santa Barbara City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to approve an ordinance that will allow the Coast Village Association the opportunity to form a community benefit district.

“The Coast Village Association has been at this for a very long,” Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said. “The Coast Village Association has already led the way, showed what they do when they have opportunities to reinvest in themselves.”

The council agreed to spend $40,000 in Measure C business corridor funds — $30,000 of which is a loan.

The vote means that the Coast Village Association can begin the process of launching a petition. Although state law allows groups to form assessment districts, the threshold for support needed from property owners is 50%. The council agreed to lower the number to 30%, at the request of members of the Coast Village Association.

If the petition eventually passes, it would need 50.1% of the property owners on the street and would last for five years. The association, however, will have the option of renewing the term for up to 20 years.

“I think we are just allowing this district to invest in themselves,” Sneddon said. “It will be an example of being managed by locals.”

Although many people mistakenly believe Coast Village Road is in the unincorporated Montecito area of Santa Barbara County, it actually is within Santa Barbara’s city limits. The mile-long street supplies the City of Santa Barbara with about $2 million in revenue a year from sales tax and transient occupancy taxes. The neighborhood is a popular destination for local residents as well as tourists looking for niche retail shopping experiences beyond downtown. It’s also a dynamic and vibrant area for dining, from coffee shops to steak houses and virtually everything in between.

The association hopes to use the money for a variety of purposes, including installing new landscaping, irrigating the medians, realigning intersections to help with traffic flow, creating a rotating banner system, marketing and promotions, and addressing safety problems related to the growing challenge from transients.

If the assessment is approved, the amount that property owners will pay varies. Engineers will decide how much each parcel will contribute, based on a variety of factors, including the square footage of the property and structures, and lineal frontage on Coast Village Road.

Commercial real estate broker Francois DeJohn lives in Montecito and is a member of the Coast Village Association board.

“There’s been no shortage of people asking me over the years, ‘Why do the medians look, I can say, unlandscaped?’ would be a diplomatic way,” DeJohn said. “Why doesn’t Coast Village Road have better lighting? Can we make this place even more inviting for the city?'”

DeJohn said he is one of the people who over the years has called individual property owners to ask them to get holiday donations to decorate the street.

“It’s been really difficult, especially the last two years through the fires, the mudslides, the pandemic, and God knows what is going to happen to us when the 101 gets widened,” DeJohn said. “Coast Village Road has had its licks recently, and I am very excited to see that we could get or have the possibility of getting a sustainable revenue source for the road that would help the city, the community, the owners, the tenants, and have that area really shine.”

The ordinance also would apply to other areas in the city if they choose to launch an assessment district. Several members of the council said they believe that whatever happens on Coast Village Road could be a model for other parts of Santa Barbara.

“I look forward to maybe one day being able to apply something like this in my district and other districts as well,” Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez said. “This is a great move to move forward and really help our local businesses.”