Sophisticated Makeover Proposed for Downtown Plaza

The forlorn De La Guerra Plaza,* off E. De La Guerra Street between State and Anacapa, is inching toward an exciting revamp. This Wednesday, February 17, the Historic Landmarks Commission will discuss the proposed renovation, seen below for the first time. From the agenda:

The Plaza De La Guerra Revitalization Project involves raising the entire Plaza, as well as De La Guerra Street between Anacapa Street and State Street, to be level with the existing sidewalk. Proposed improvements include new landscaping, splash pad, restrooms, kiosk, arcade, stage, art nodes, lighting, and trash/recycling.

Here are the slides from RRM Design Group‘s presentation that I found most illuminating….

There’s much to like: the removal of car traffic and parking, the blocking off half of that block of E. De La Guerra Street, the airiness, and the dining area. The art nodes and stage will depend entirely on the curation, which is a concern. As for the arcade, I’d like to know more about the point of it, and I wish the “splash pad”—one of those wet play areas for kids—would disappear. It would be more at home in Paseo Nuevo.

The approval process is sure to be long, because the plaza ia a prominent part of downtown and it’s surrounded by landmarks. Also from the agenda:

The 2011 Historic Structures/Sites Report accepted by the HLC found that Plaza De La Guerra is eligible for listing as a City of Santa Barbara Landmark, eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, and eligible for listing as a significant Cultural Landscape in the National Register of Historic Places. Surrounding Plaza De La Guerra are City Hall and the California Pepper Tree, The News Press Building, Casa De La Guerra, and El Paseo, all designated City Landmarks; and the La Placita Building a.k.a. McKay-Bothin Building that is a designated Structure of Merit.

The anchor of the plaza is the Santa Barbara News-Press building; it’s only a matter of time till the newspaper goes under and the building is put to another use (or not, and it becomes one more big white elephant downtown). Imagine if it were a luxury hotel, looking out over the plaza….

*The agenda calls it Plaza De La Guerra, while the plans refer to it as De La Guerra Plaza, and the internet is equally divided between the two.

Other local projects in the works:
••• State Street undercrossing revamp
••• Highway 101
••• Dwight Murphy Field upgrade
••• Ortega Park renovation
••• New Carpinteria skate park
••• Santa Claus Lane improvements


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Dan O. Seibert

You think it’s forlorn? Really? When did you move here? I think I’m a newcomer and I got here in 1986. The plaza is only used a few times a year, mostly during one week of Fiesta. It’s fine just the way it is, these so called improvements are BS.

Monte Smith

I appreciate you. You’re standing up for de la Guerra Plaza. Do you know that funding for design/lighting is on the upcoming City Council agenda? Maybe you’ll weigh in. It just needs some repair work and maintenance.
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Too bad – I am a newbie here (3 years) and I remember how delighted I was to find this little island of green surrounded by interesting buildings in the center of paved downtown. Does downtown really need more pavement? Keep the green and create an oasis, much like the area surrounding the Mission.


I agree with you. I’d like to see it turned into a more formal green oasis. It would be great to have restaurants opening onto the space and to make everything one level and remove cars. But removing green for more hardscaping doesn’t do it for me. How about a formal park? We’re really missing one downtown. There’s an issue around that that I won’t bring up as it’s a whole other can of worms, but in my dream world DLG Plaza would be a lush and romantic park for people to sit in and read, relax, and people watch. I have Lutah Maria Riggs’s plans for the plaza, which I think she proposed in the ’70s. I’ll review them but I think she called for something similar and included a central fountain (that wasn’t a splash pad of course!). Love Lutah!

Carla Trott Lejade

I wish it had more green . If they must pave it all -make the pavement interesting or consider compacted gravel or something more porous. Why not add rows of more trees for shade like a French park – it gets hot there.


I agree with the idea of a more park-like oasis atmosphere …for people to just relax for a while- just beautify the area… maybe add drought resistant fragrant plants, shade trees, and a fountain that recycles its own water.
And I don’t like the idea of a public restroom—which will invite unwanted use by transients, homeless drug users/sellers, etc- unless you then have to consider having private security monitoring the area for the patron’s safety…. and the massive trash areas- yuk!