State street underpass may be redesigned to make it more welcoming

Built in 1991, the look is considered outdated

New ideas have been sought to make the State Street underpass more welcoming. (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The State Street underpass in Santa Barbara may be getting a new look to make it more of a gateway to downtown and the beach. 

Significant developments have been done on both sides of the underpass but the stretch between Gutierrez Street and Yanonali Street is essentially the same as it has been since 1991 when it was completed.

That underpass was part of a project that eliminated four signal lights on Highway 101 as it passed through the city.

These days, the underpass is viewed as drab gray structure and a poor example of the city's reputation for trendy urban design, thoughtful landscaping, creative architecture and art.

Many other cities have also added new looks to their bridges, under pass areas and downtown corridors.

A YouTube video has been prepared to showcase what the city will discuss at a public meeting November 15.

One resident Glenn Crist says he does not see the area as a welcoming route for tourists or local residents.   

"There's no attraction. This should be a place of attraction rather than promotion," said Crist. When asked if this is the gateway to the city, he said strongly, "NO!"

Assistant to the City Manager Nina Johnson says with the new waterfront hotels, retail areas and bridges, this is a perfect time to consider changes to upgrade the underpass. 

"This would definitely be a great gateway to lower downtown now that we have had so much construction come to a close, on lower state street. Now we can keep more people walking," said Johnson.  "So really draw pedestrians up State Street, make it a destination people want to visit."

Some of the early suggestions include murals,  wider walking areas and reducing traffic lanes along with lighting and sound mixed together.

One resident identifying herself simply as Tibby is a regular walker in the area. "We're gonna get into darker nights and it isn't gong to be safe," she said. "And we have all the wonderful  new hotels and people are going to be coming and I think it would be a good safety issue to up the lighting in the underpass."

For more information on the project and meeting go to:

The City of Santa Barbara video is at:

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