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I am overjoyed to see that the city has been forced to use its prime downtown real estate for something greater than parking cars. Outdoor dining in a coastal town that boasts the best climate in the world? What a concept. 

Especially gratifying, because years ago, my business partner and I rented a darling Ole Hanson house on Del Mar and opened The Abode. The house had been a law office for decades, then sat vacant for years.

The front yard was paved over and chained off. We took down the rusty chain and attempted to return the home to its former glory, filling the yard with potted trees, flowers, and a stone Spanish-style water fountain.  

We went to the city for a permit to sell espresso and pastries to be enjoyed on small café tables in the front garden. Surely, they’ll love our vision, right?  

Their answer: Remove the plants and fountains off your parking spots now or you’ll be fined. It’s not a garden; it’s parking.  The community didn’t get an outdoor café; however, we ignored the command to remove the plants.

We were repeatedly fined by city officials. Eventually, we moved our business elsewhere and gave The Abode away to someone else. Thankfully, The Abode survived on Del Mar, with lots of plants and zero chained-off parking spaces.

Cities are starting to recognize what Europe has long known: cars are ugly, noisy, pollution machines that don’t belong everywhere.

Example from the front page of Santa Barbara’s website: “Santa Barbara is feeling extra European these days thanks to the introduction of the State Street Promenade. The heart of Downtown Santa Barbara’s entertainment and retail district has transformed into an expansive 10-block pedestrian walkway.”

Closing off just two blocks of Del Mar, or at least permanently eliminating (street) parking, should be a no-brainer.  

I hope there is new blood in the city who can envision a better downtown. One where our tiny main street isn’t being choked by parking spaces and where humans aren’t forced to dine indoors on a sunny day and stare out at the butts of cars.

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