The Four Potential Designs for Franceschi Park

••• In a blow for downtown, Wendy Foster‘s shop at 1220 State Street (Anapamu/Victoria) is closing at the end of the month, and until then, everything at that location is at least 50 percent off, with all sales final. (The stores in Montecito and Los Olivos will remain open.) The announcement: “After nearly 40 years of quintessential ‘Santa Barbara style’ in the heart of our coastal community, we have decided to take a ‘pause’ on our State Street storefront, closing the doors of Wendy Foster State Street at the end of May 2024, following the completion of our lease term. With the ever-changing climate of Santa Barbara’s downtown shopping destination, we feel that it is best for our business to focus on our other locations at this time, opening the door to future opportunities. We are saddened to end this long-standing chapter on State Street; but look forward to exciting new opportunities for our company as a whole. […] Thank you again to our cherished community for your support over the years, we look forward to many more exciting years ahead!”

••• The Four Seasons Biltmore issued a major update after I posted about its current state: “The scope of the project and lengthy permitting process required to bring these enhancements to life has unfortunately pushed back our ability to open the property this summer as hoped,” emailed the general manager. “We anticipate we will be in a position to reopen the Resort in 2025, barring any significant permit challenges or delays.”

••• A bunch of shows have been announced:

—Toad the Wet Sprocket at the Lobero Theatre on August 29.
—Remi Wolf at the Santa Barbara Bowl on September 10.
—The Robert Cray Band at the Lobero Theatre on September 14.
—Actress/comedian* Ali Wong at the Arlington Theatre on September 21. (*If I’m using “actress,” I guess I should also use “comedienne,” but that sounds weird—but so does calling her an “actor.”)
—Slightly Stoopid at the Santa Barbara Bowl on October 6.

••• Two interesting developments in Summerland are coming in front of the county’s South Board of Architectural Review. This Friday, May 17, the board will discuss the proposal by Shane Brown, owner of The Well, to convert the two residential buildings at 2380 Lillie Avenue to commercial. Brown says that the goal is mixed-use, with some retail and some residential. And on June 7, Darrell and Kirsten Becker, owners of 2275 Ortega Hill Road (home to Tinker’s, Red Kettle Coffee, Bikini Factory, and Indian Summers), are requesting “a renovation of existing building shell, ADA upgrades, renovation of coffee, bar, restaurant, and retail shop, new trash area, a 734-square-foot addition to the existing structure, new patio and trellis, and landscaping.” Darrell Becker said that the plan is “to breathe new life into the structure and bring it into ADA compliance. We have no specific goals with regard to tenancy.”

••• Goleta’s Clay Studio has rebranded as Maker House: “It represents our renewed dedication to the transformative medium of clay as well as other sculptural and dimensional materials to come in the future.”

••• The Riviera Theatre’s French Wave Film Festival (July 12-18) announced its full slate, and individual tickets are now available. Count me in for Stéphane Brizé’s Hors-Saison.

••• The four design concepts for Franceschi Park have been revealed, and you can rank them in order of preference. (Do it by May 27.) As you should already know, Franceschi House is slated for demolition, so the question becomes what happens on the spot where it now stands. “Currently, the surrounding site design is the same amongst all four concepts, so when ranking the concepts please focus on the different terrace designs.” The first image below is of the overall site design, followed by the four designs and their descriptions. I hope the park’s neighbors get involved, because they’re the people most likely to frequent the park often. That said, I much prefer option 1; I don’t see the point of adding ghostly elements of a house that’s hardly famous throughout the land. Better to get out of the way of the view.


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Any timeline related to Ty Warner is essentially useless as he is not really a rational person and being a billionaire he doesn’t have to play by the usual rules.


Permit Issues: Oops
, “ all we did was destroy an historic landscape and dig a hole for a lazy River without asking”

Pam Shalhoob

Sad the iconic Wendy Foster store is another victim of the State st demise. One of the many ‘go to’ shopping experiences on State has suffered yet another blow by the city council who won’t listen to the public outcry to OPEN STATE ST to automobiles and get rid of the ‘parklets’ that served their purpose over two years ago!!
We need new leaders who will listen to the local people!!


Respectfully, State st and lots of retail were failing long before Covid. I used to go to Wendy foster and Nordstrom on canon perdido and it wasn’t like I was parking on state. Foot traffic there is mainly tourists and having 6 blocks closed off for strolling is a good idea and is popular all over the country. Parklets were great for getting more outside seating is out very temperate climate.


“In our very temperate climate”. We need an edit button! ????


I’m with AFC – the only thing that will change if we re-open the rest of State Street to vehicle traffic is that we’ll be able to walk and/or drive by failing retail businesses, rather than only being able to walk by them – as they fail. There’s several things at play here – not just the changing nature of retail that’s been happening on the national/global scale for the past few decades but also more local forces as well. State Street, as it currently exists, simply has too much square footage for the size of this town to fill it all with retail and restaurants. The center of gravity for night life has also shifted to other areas of town – most notably the Funk Zone. This is a zero sum game – there’s a finite number of shopping/dining dollars, and so the shifting of the center of gravity towards the Funk Zone will not be magically made up by vehicle traffic on State Street. There’s also – SO MUCH PARKING in downtown – if you just know where to look for it. If you go to any semi-functional/non-dying mall, chances are you’ll do more walking at that mall than you will to visit a shop or restaurant on State Street. And yes – lots of malls are dying – but I have yet to see someone propose with a straight face that the solution to that is to allow people to drive through the pedestrian spaces of those malls. As a SB resident and voter, I will never, ever vote for any local politician who votes to reopen the rest of State Street. Never. Ever.

Dan O. Seibert

But State street isn’t a mall, it’s a downtown retail corridor. And I guess you never, ever, ever vote for me for mayor.


I’m well aware that downtown is not a mall (even though there’s a mostly failing one inside of it) – the point I was making is that you’ll often do more walking at a mall than you will going downtown, and that no one is suggesting that the solution to the death of malls that people be able to drive through the pedestrian spaces of those malls. From the recent economic summit:

“With a 14.86% vacancy rate from Gutierrez to Sola streets, a rate unchanged since 2019, State Street will have to evolve in order to recapture some of its former glory. It’s part of the ebb and flow of retail in Santa Barbara’s downtown.”

So the vacancy rate is literally unchanged from before portions of State Street were closed. So, opening up the remaining 6 blocks to vehicular traffic is going to accomplish what exactly? With the cross streets open, you’re literally never more than half a block away by car from the places you’re going. There’s never been in recent decades an abundance of parking on State Street – it’s literally the last place you’d look for parking. So if I was going downtown and the rest of State was open, the way that I’d access State Street would literally be unchanged – I’d go to the same parking lots and garages that I currently go to when I go downtown, as I suspect is the case for the vast majority of the population. I just don’t see how allowing vehicle traffic on the rest of State Street changes ANYTHING about the current decline of retail, but hey I’m all ears.


So many interesting comments here, starting with “Old Walter’s” and ending with the observations of other vibrant communities in the state, country and world as noted by Laurie. SLO appears to be in excellent shape and, on a recent visit to Santa Cruz, which has sometimes been kind of seedy, it too felt better than State St. Nice to see smart and civil discourse (unlike some of the insult-laden comments on other publications.


Nice to hear that Santa Cruz is on the upswing. I lived there for 10 years, and while it’ll always have a special place in my heart, the intravenous drug problem was so out of hand, it was depressing. Literally people in public, nodding off with needles in their arms.

Sam Tababa

There is only one path to fixing downtown Santa Barbara.


Cars on State St are not the answer. Low income housing packed into downtown is not the answer. More hotels and restaurants are not the answer. Low wage, low skilled jobs are not, nor are they ever the answer. In fact, their abundance is a main cause of State Street’s and Santa Barbara’s current mess.

The answer is to attract and foster high value businesses that employ high valued employees who are able to afford to build a life and a future in Santa Barbara. We need to take advantage of our gifts. In this case:

The fact that we have one of the best engineering schools in the world in our backyard minting highly motivated and educated people every single year. People who DO NOT want to leave, but have no choice if they want to build a career and a future.

Instead of fostering, supporting and aiding startups and working to attract highly skilled, highly paid companies and jobs, our public employees and officials continue to give tax breaks to out of town hotel owners and property developers for short term boosts in revenue but no long term viability.

Tourism is a cancer and a race to the bottom. Nowhere on earth does tourism increase quality of life. It’s a necessary part of our areas economy, but should be a small part of our future. Not the entirety of our city’s hedge.

Build our way out of this mess with the resources and assets we have. They’re abundant and cheap and harnessing them will create a healthy, stable community that supports all.


I have been thinking this same thing for years, thanks for articulating so well Sam. Giving in to tourism destroys local culture and quality of life.


Can you run for City Council??! Great comment and so true. All of our kids who are in college and graduating, leave SB because they can’t afford it. And, all this housing to be built rarely has a large number of affordable homes! My dad used to say that the “fish rots from the head”…and the head here is the City Council/Mayor, etc…

jim m

Ok everyone hit the like button here for Sam. The problem is the cost of construction, the four, five, six years to permit a project and cost of permits and fees along with current interest rates makes it nearly impossible for any project to pencil.


Make a Village. Only Wise Growth, Make it Useful: Cheap Rents
Turn the big retail behemoths like Macy Nordstrom’s into villages with small, very affordable spaces for rent. Fill it with fix it places that are useful to Santa Barbara’s citizens. Fix it places, artisans, craftspeople. Places for the old and the young. Places for the rich and the poor. An area for learning to do things like sewing and mending, tinkering (think adult Ed but multigenerational). Some food too but Not All Food and Drink. (We have enough) Make a Village.


Thank you for posting the survey. Agreed, something like Option 1. The house is, let’s be direct, ugly. The view is incredible.

Of course, the best choice would have been to spend (a lot less than) the $1 million already spent on consultants on a city attorney finding a way to get out of the deed and sell the property to pay for things people use. On a recent Sunday at 4 pm, there were a total of 5 people there- three were teens smoking weed and tossing their joints in the dry brush. Down the hill at the Mission and Shoreline Park, each had hundreds of people there. It’s clear where we should be spending our money.

Mick G.

I truly do not understand the argument to bring cars back on State. I know Randy’s on that bandwagon, but it makes ZERO sense to me. We really need more CO with all of the idling vehicles? The Parklets and sidewalk dining are wonderful. They should be permanent. Sure, make ’em look a bit nicer. But being able to stroll down the middle of the road is so much more classy and makes State St. a lot more appealing.

I agree completely with those here who cite data matching my memory that the vacant stores and abandoned leases were happening long before COVID and the parklets appeared. They’re a function of extremely high rents, which nearly ensure a very high failure rate.

The only thing I’d take issue with is that I don’t believe that all of our kids are leaving town because of the cost of housing. At least not initially. They’re leaving because this is a small town, and many of them want challenging, exciting jobs and to experience a big city somewhere else. They may very well return one day, but while they’re here, they can live with us, save money, get educated, and prepare to fly the coop and find their own way in the world before they one day return to the nest.

I love the idea of creating more interesting jobs than those that serve tourism, but we’re still a small town and should never aspire to be an SF, LA, or SD. I don’t think anyone wants that. Yes, we can go on and on about affordable housing and I wish we had more of that too. Perhaps building up will aid and abet that cause?

Beyond affordable housing, we need affordable business spaces! Otherwise we’ll just be looking at wealthy chain stores lining State and other shopping locales. The Funk Zone took off initially because it was cheaper, there was space, and that gave local shop owners more time to figure out their wares. Unique, funky, fun stores, pubs, breweries, and eateries sprung up. I just don’t think that’s ever going to happen on State until the corporations that own the buildings decide to opt for local, long-term tenants with unique ideas for stores. Strolling downtown SLO, one remembers what SB town used to look like in the olden days when there were stop lights on 101 and all sorts of unique and interesting shops and restaurants downtown.

Affordable housing is a good goal, but affordable business leases are even better. Otherwise, all those folks in affordable housing will be working for Starbux and McDonald’s.


downtown SLO is vibrant and interesting and filled with people, shops, restaurants, art… it’s worth taking a drive up to see what santa barbara could look & feel like – not just in the past but in the present and future. and not only is it SLO, many of the little town’s downtowns north of us are full of interesting life! i wonder if many of our council members have travelled out of santa barbara. they seem to have such narrow vision – a sort of innocence and ignorance. there are such vibrant cities all over our country and europe – a plethora of visual and sensual delights.

Mick G.

Totally agree, Laurie. In addition to affordable housing, if SB could focus on affordable business leases and small business incentives to open more interesting, eclectic, compelling shops and restaurants, no one would want cars back in the State. I’d like to see more chairs and benches and plants in the center of the street to make it a place people actually enjoy hanging out.

Don’t call it a “mall” if that word is displeasing. But call it “a community gathering place.”


Thanks for posting the options on Fransceschi Park. I agree, the only one that makes sense is the first one. Preserving the memory of an old house doesn’t make any sense. Having said that, all the designs are pretty workmanlike. They’ll do, but aren’t exciting.

Your comment on looking for opinions from people in the neighborhood and following comments about spending money on it while all the action is on the beach and around the Mission made me wonder, what is the objective here? Who is the park for? The neighborhood? Tourists? People who live in Santa Barbara but don’t have houses with that spectacular view? Understanding that might drive a better design.