September 25, 2023
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Our view: Region’s downtowns must look beyond dining


Downtowns have fought their way back from the pandemic with a combination of street closings and restaurant revitalization.

But as Santa Barbara gets ready to inaugurate a new mayor and Santa Barbara and Ventura both take steps toward making car-free downtown streets more permanent, it is worth taking into account something else that’s happening across the region: the reinvention of cities as working environments for innovation.

In life sciences, lab space is in such short supply in the Bay Area and San Diego that venture-back firms are beginning to flock to Thousand Oaks, where some 1 million square feet of space for labs, offices and other facilities is being developed.

In the software/advertising space, The Trade Desk is soaking up thousands of square feet in downtown Ventura and remaking that city’s corporate culture. Recent gifts from The Trade Desk’s billionaire founder Jeff Green to CSU Channel Islands have set motion big changes to corporate philanthropy as well.

When it comes to innovation, San Luis Obispo already has a foot in the door with the Cal Poly Hothouse, a small business development center and access to capital and expertise.

Likewise, the strength of downtown Santa Barbara rests with its local, regional and global banks, its professional services expertise and plenty of private capital. UC Santa Barbara has traditionally looked to Goleta as the place to incubate innovation, but it too has begun to build a bridgehead in the downtown area, joining Westmont College and Antioch University. CSU Channel Islands would also like to have a downtown presence that’s close to Amazon, Sonos, LogicMonitor and others in the city center.

For civic leaders, it should just not be a binary question of closing State Street or Main Street, or how far to extend restaurants past the curb line. The real question is how to embrace a corporate culture that’s going impact urban cores in profound ways that we are just beginning imagine.


Throughout its history, California Lutheran University has been able to make sense out of conflicting priorities.
Founded with deep commitment to its Lutheran heritage, it has created a powerful MBA program and developed strong arts and sciences programs. It has reached out to underserved communities in admirable ways.

It also operates in a community whose values have always been conservative and whose neighbor is the Ronald Reagan Library, an important institution in shaping the future of the GOP.

Those conflicting priorities were evident nearly a decade ago when CLU accepted the archives of retired U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, a Simi Valley Republican and one of Reagan’s staunchest allies. Gallegly was a foe of immigration reform and a fiscal conservative.

But he was not one to stifle debate, and was effective in working across the aisle on issues like massive improvements to access for the Port of Hueneme and saving jobs at Naval Base Ventura County when it was considered for closure.

Gallegly is now suing CLU in a dispute over support for the center for public service that was named after him. That’s most unfortunate. We urge both parties to give a full airing of their differences, and work out an agreement.