A proposal to redesign the historic De La Guerra Plaza for people instead of cars is facing opposition in local government - Learn more below!

About this form

This web form was created to simplify the process of emailing a public comment to the De La Guerra Plaza Revitalization Advisory Committee.

Upon submission, this form will generate an email addressed to the project manager (Brad Hess, DLGPlaza@SantabarbaraCA.gov) with the subject heading "Public comment in support of  De La Guerra Plaza Redesign," signed by the provided name and zip code (to indicate local residency or otherwise). Your provided email address will also be cc'd. 

Suggested talking points are provided here, however users of the form are strongly encouraged to personalize the contents of the email:

What it used to look like (1940s)
What it looks like now (2023)
What it could look like (aerial view; design design rendering 2022)
View of arcade looking towards Noozhawk building (design rendering 2022)

View of water feature with Newspress building in background (design rendering 2022)

View of Storke placita (design rendering 2022)
View of renovated city hall landscape with gardens (design rendering 2022)
Proposed blueprint

De La Guerra Plaza

Santa Barbara is in the process of redesigning the plaza in front of the City Hall, aiming to change the current swath of dead grass into a true plaza!

There are a number of features that are being proposed in the plaza that we would like to see in the redesign, including: 

We also fully support the elimination of private automobiles from the plaza. The elimination of parking from the plaza is a net positive to locals, tourists, and business owners. As the city traffic study found, there is more than enough parking in the numerous nearby lots, some of which are only a half block from the plaza, to accommodate the spots removed from the plaza after redesign. Further, if the city follows through on its plans to permanently close the State St Promenade to cars, redesigning the De La Guerra Plaza to be car-free will supplement the city's efforts to pedestrianize downtown.

The adoption of the RRM designs will also finally complete what has long been an unfinished space in the heart of our city, enabling the De La Guerra Plaza to realize its full potential. In the 1920’s, architect Barnard Hoffman, who planned the famous El Paseo and restored the De la Guerra adobe, actually proposed plans to redo the plaza complete with a grand fountain. George Washington Smith, Lutah Maria Riggs, and James Osborne Craig also proposed designs, some including a central bandstand. However, the 1925 earthquake shifted city focus to rebuilding downtown; the many plans for the plaza were never realized.

As the 21st century progresses, cities across the world (increasingly in the United States), are “taking back” their public spaces from the cars, righting the auto-invasion that occurred nearly 100 years ago. Cities across the country are taking the same steps to bring back pleasant, quiet, and enjoyable streets with a focus on pedestrians and cyclists. In many of those places, the decision makers face the same misinformed fury and confusion that is currently plaguing the SB City Council. The members of Strong Towns Santa Barbara, however, would like to express their positive support for the design changes, and hope to see them come to fruition.

What Makes a Great Public Space?

Picture of a park in London, taken in June 2023. Credit: Sullivan Israel

If De La Guerra Plaza is to be remodeled into a downtown attraction, it is worth asking the question: what makes a great public space? Also: what examples can we look toward for inspiration?

Some of the world's greatest urban planners have grappled with this question, but perhaps none delved into it more deeply than Walter Whyte. Through a series of studies carried out in the 1970's and 80's, involving setting up time lapse cameras over New York's public squares too see where people liked to sit, stand, and converse, then creating maps of where people met or children played, Whyte was able to whittle down what makes a public space great to a few key elements. These included shade, ledges for sitting, movable furniture, water features, and food vendors. But perhaps most importantly, Whyte famously remarked: 

"What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people." 

Whyte found that the most popular outdoor spaces in New York City, regardless of location, were designed with a "bottom-up" approach, meaning that the designers understood and designed for the way people actually want to use spaces. De La Guerra Plaza has the potential to become one of these highly successful, people-oriented spaces with just a few new elements and changes. 

As the 21st century progresses, cities across the world, and especially in this country, are “taking back” their public spaces from the cars that invaded them about 100 years ago. The trend started early in the Netherlands, and has spread from there. A great early example not too different from our beloved plaza can be seen in the city square of Delft, in the Netherlands:



Here, the city square went from being a lifeless, loud car park to a bustling, pedestrian- and bike-friendly gathering place. 

There are more examples closer to home as well. Perhaps the most famous town square in America, Times Square in NYC, had a significant remodel which was completed in 2017 and which eliminated car traffic to create seating and walking areas, as described at curbed.com. Similarly, Market Street in San Francisco removed cars completely and is in the planning stages of a major remodel.

Before/After of Times Square (Photos by Michael Grimm)

The important thing is this: The pedestrianization of our public spaces is not a trend or a fad. It’s not even a new idea. Before the automobile, all the spaces mentioned above - and our own Plaza de la Guerra - were crisscrossed by people on foot every day for hundreds or even thousands of years, depending on the city. The introduction of cars onto streets a little more than 100 years ago took those spaces away; pedestrianization is simply the act of taking them back. Cities across the country are following suit, having now realized the benefits of pleasant, quiet, and enjoyable streets for walking and biking only. 

Walter Whyte once said: "It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished." Though De La Guerra Plazas may be one of the spaces Whyte would have frowned upon today, there is great potential waiting to be unlocked. 

Common Misconscpetions About DLG Plaza

Anti-DLG Plaza sentiment is often expressed in Public Comment letters to the HLC. Many of these letter contain similar misleading or confused claims. The most common are addressed below: