Current Issues

Back

Our Opinion: Wrecking De la Guerra Plaza

October 16, 2007 10:45 AM

The city, once again, is back with an attempt to give De la Guerra Plaza a makeover. But Santa Barbarans still are in the dark about how extreme it will be.


Historical photograph of De la Guerra Plaza.
Proposals to make the plaza all one level and reduce the size of the grassy area are the first steps to closing off the plaza to traffic and creating a dead zone.
NEWS-PRESS FILE
And it's even difficult not to be alarmed about changes the city calls minor. Public meetings in 2004 exposed the city's stealth planning process for De la Guerra Plaza. It became apparent that incremental or smaller changes proposed then were meant to further a radical agenda that a few people have for the plaza in the future.

Their vision disrespects the plaza's historical uses and appearance.

For example, Santa Barbarans for more than a century have used the plaza's road, whether it was dirt or blacktop, to conduct their daily business and to access City Hall and the city's daily newspaper. Proposals to make the plaza all one level and reduce the size of the grassy area are the first steps to closing off the plaza to traffic and creating a dead zone.

Simply put, the present plaza doesn't fit into the Disney-fied look some at the city are trying to create throughout downtown.

There are also petty politics at play. It appears that some members of the City Council would like to remove the short-term parking spots in front of the News-Press to punish the newspaper for editorials critical of City Hall on unrelated matters.

Members of the Historic Landmarks Commission -- which will discuss the plaza at a hearing tomorrow afternoon -- have participated in or supported anti-News-Press campaigns over the last 18 months. In particular, vice chairman Alex Pujo ought to recluse himself from discussions about the plaza because of his past conduct.

The Historic Landmarks Commission during the blue-line street painting project earlier this year exposed itself as a body that places politics and political connections above respecting the city's history and precedents. The plans for De la Guerra Plaza may be another chapter.

In 2004, 40 businesses near the plaza signed a petition against changes. Leaders of the Latino community testified about the hardships that closing the plaza to parking would have on people who come to City Hall to pay their bills.

The testimony came at a hearing in which the city staff put forth an inconsistent document that appeared to many people as meant to set in motion a radical overhaul of the plaza.

City Councilwoman Helene Schneider cut through this facade when she wondered whether this was a visioning process or a fait accompli.

Little has changed over the last three years. The city has waited to bring this back in hopes that this time around it can sneak the makeover through without the uproar heard in 2004.

Back

Home | Biography | Philanthropy | Philosophy | Current Issues | Contact
All Content Copyright 2017 | Ampersand Publishing, LLC unless otherwise specified.