Earlier this year, the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, Old Town property owners and the Goleta business community proposed an initiative that would create a significant, ongoing funding source for improvements. Not only would this proposal help businesses thrive, it would enhance the unique character of this special and historic neighborhood.
The proposal - a possible Property Business Improvement District, or PBID - had the buy-in from many businesses, the City's professional staff and the property owners who would be paying the assessment. Crucially, the City of Goleta would own the oversight of the program.
Sadly, on Feb. 5, the Goleta City Council opted to keep Old Town Goleta in its current state. That's disappointing.
The Council balked at moving forward after a misleading campaign against the proposal by a group of opponents, who accused the Goleta Chamber of Commerce of favoring Old Town gentrification and chain stores over mom-and-pop shops and small businesses that are the heart - and soul - of the Chamber's membership.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Kristen Miller, the Chamber's president and CEO, testified at the Council meeting, directly addressing the opponents' attacks.
"The Chamber has been the only champion for small business in Old Town for decades."
Two Old Town small business owners, both Chamber board members, testified as well. Anne Pazier, owner of Santa Barbara Gift Baskets, and Hallie Avolio, co-owner of Latitude 34˚ Technologies, reassured the Council that small business is at the core of the Chamber's public-private partnership with the City.
But, in the face of angry accusations that included repugnant references to the Chamber and its nearly 450 member businesses promoting the "raping and pillaging" of the community, the Council opted to ask for yet more research and studies.
As a result of this inaction, the Chamber is tabling the PBID discussion for now. Our Old Town Business Committee, which includes businesses, property owners, nonprofit organizations and City representatives, will continue to work on programs funded by the City's General Fund. And the committee will continue to explore events, marketing, networking and advocacy to support the Old Town community.
Larger projects - like landscaping and an employee parking lot - will just have to wait. Again.