February 6, 2023
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Editorial: Region’s cities embrace hip urban planning models


Cities are beginning to chart a different sort of future. A new generation of residents is making density a positive value and embracing a blend of alternative transportation, open space, walk-to-work convenience and proximity to wine bars and good restaurants.

Whether this new method of city planning becomes a permanent part of the urban scene or is the latest fad, it certainly is taking hold in a number of places, particularly along the Central Coast.

In Santa Barbara, the hipster-urban culture clearly is taking over the city core, making the administration’s big bet on development of the so-called Funk Zone a huge winner. Now the question is whether the Haley Street corridor can emerge as Funk Zone 2.0 and draw startups and emerging companies to a new area of the city center.

In San Luis Obispo, already really crowded in the city core, Chevron’s proposed plan for the Tank Farm Road area near the San Luis Obispo airport looks more and more promising now that city officials have given initial approval.

The Tank Farm corridor is already a burgeoning zone for business and high-tech startups including software firm Mindbody. Architecture firm RRM Design has created a plan that involved a new open-space corridor and limited commercial-industrial development.

But Tank Farm really does matter — a new chapter for the future of business in SLO will unfold if the redevelopment plan for the area can go forward.

Finally, there is the Townsgate-Agoura Road area of Westlake Village at the eastern edge of Ventura County. Although this area doesn’t have the college-town feel of San Luis Obispo or the hip downtown live-work amenities of Santa Barbara, it has a unique collection of shopping and restaurants and quietly hosts the first Amgen biotech spinoff.

California Lutheran University is trying to jumpstart the entrepreneurial energy of the area with a new startup business  incubator located just off Lindero Canyon Road. The university has recruited former UC Santa Barbara startup guru Mike Panesis to run the effort.

The emerging efforts in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Westlake Village are bold experiments in advancing the startup culture. They are risky gambles. But they have a high probability of success.

1 Comment

  1. Henry, I am glad that the startup effort is getting continued attention from the region. As you know, the http://805connect.com project is helping those efforts by connecting these fledgling entities with established mentors and resources in the region. We are encouraged that there is so much happening in this regard. You mentioned the new Huddle Campus in Westlake and GEM is hosting their first DEMO night at Bacara. The SLO Hot House continues to impress us with the quality of leadership shown in how that program is run. There’s a new effort underway called HUB101 that’s a project in Camarillo that hosted 8 companies this Summer. I had the pleasure of doing a virtual coaching session with them last month.

    By encouraging and supporting these efforts, we continue to bolster the economic potential and vitality of the region. At last count there were 87 businesses in 805connect that described themselves as early stage or startups. That’s 10% of the current population in the network. That’s a great sign.