A special bike path has been approved and will be built — “sometime this year” — down Los Carneros Road, from El Colegio to a structure housing an electronic runway marker for the Santa Barbara Airport. So reports Peter Chapman, campus architect.
What will happen to the path once it reaches the middle marker is a matter of controversy involving UCSB, the Mayor’s Bikeway Committee, the Federal Aviation Agency, the airport itself and Delco Corporation — a division of General Motors.
At present, the middle marker is situated squarely in the middle of the Los Carneros right-of-way area, blocking the planned path of the bikeway.
The airport would like the middle marker moved across Los Carneros approximately 1,000 feet into GM property, primarily because the middle marker is now too close, in the opinion of airport authorities, to the end of the main runway, which has been lengthened since the placement of the marker.
Robert Sheker, airport manager says he has “other things to do” than report to the NEXUS; Robert Rauch, public relations man for Delco, says “We’re not involved. (Five years of) lengthy negotiations between the city and GM as to where that shack ought to be… are coming to resolution.” Campus Architect Chapman believes that, with the recent offer by the city to buy the needed piece of property from GM, the negotiations have finally begun in earnest.
If the middle marker is not relocated soon, it would be possible to re-route the bike path around the shack onto airport property. To do this, permission is needed from the FAA authorities, who are, in Chapman’s words, “willing to discuss it,” although, “I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect them to approve something they haven’t seen.”
But Chapman cannot guess when a decision about the relocation of the middle marker may be made.
Two more problems have to be faced before construction can begin: the size of the bikeway must be agreed upon and a source of funding must be found.
Optimum bikeway size is 10 feet wide, with a landscaped strip six feet wide separating the bikeway from automobile traffic. Normally, this could fit easily into the 42-foot wide right-of-way along Los Carneros. But the middle marker is in the way, and near Hollister, the right-of-way disappears as Los Carneros widens from two to four lanes.
Furthermore, a retired Santa Barbara optometrist, Lester Girsh, has made plans to build a medium-sized shopping center on the corner of Los Carneros and Hollister. Although Girsh says it is “a little premature to give you any definite story” about a planned date of completion for the shopping area, he reportedly is reluctant to allow more than six feet of area for the bikepath.
Vivian Obern of the California Recreational Trail Committee has recommended that the county buy the additional land required to build the bike path on the Girsh land holding, on which he has paid 50 years rent in advance.
Obern has pointed out that a recent court decision holds the state liable for injuries caused by unsafe road design. She notes that Robert Allbright, a Santa Barbara resident, is currently suing the city, county and state for injuries he received on his bicycle when hit by a car. The court decision in question could apply to both the lack of any bikeway on Los Carneros, if accidents occur, or to inadequate room for a bikeway if one is built only six feet wide.
The University and county have agreed to build the bikeway as far as the Girsh property, and hopes have been raised that the city of Santa Barbara will cooperate in the project. But if problems involving relocation of the airport’s middle marker and the right-of-way near Hollister are not solved, the bikeway may take a lot longer than a year to finish.