Column: Moving benches on State Street an absurd waste of money

Anna Hansson, Staff Writer

State Street is the busiest business area in Santa Barbara. A plethora of shops, restaurants and bars compete for the thousands of potential customers who stroll by every day.

But there is a strong feeling of discontent among a large portion of the business owners: panhandlers ruin their commerce.

To deal with this matter, a trial of a new project, budgeted to cost $50 000, was proposed and cleared in the City Council recently.

The Downtown Organization and Santa Barbara’s Redevelopment Organization will remove or relocate 14 benches on two of the busiest blocks on State Street to discourage panhandling.

Panhandling is a daily activity on State Street, and to many of us, including me, it is not a bother at all. However, it seems to be an issue for the City of Santa Barbara.

And I can understand why. The City Council wants to keep this lovely town clean and perfect.

For some who stroll up and down on State Street, the panhandlers cause a bit of an uncomfortable feeling when they pass.

However, many don’t approach you at all. They just sit quietly on a bench or on the street with their sign, performing their speech, whereas some move toward you and ask for money.

I understand that it can be uncomfortable to have a stranger approach you and ask for money, and there are those who are aggressive.

When I first moved here and walked on State Street for the first time, I realized that there were quite a lot of homeless people for such a small town.

But as time has passed, panhandlers have become an expected part of State Street, and now I don’t even think about it.

For me this is an absurd “solution” to reduce the amount of panhandlers on State Street. Panhandling will continue whether the benches face up or down the street, because those doing it will simply sit on the street or bring their own chair.

Instead of fixing the problem, this measure will make everyone who walks on State Street suffer because it will be hard to find anywhere to sit and rest on the 800 and 900 blocks.

This project will cost the city $50,000, and I can think of several other things you could do with that money instead of removing benches.

Panhandlers on State Street most likely don’t have a proper home, and they struggle every day just to get something to eat.

Many of them suffer from bad health, and on top of that they receive tickets from the police because they sit on State Street.

Why doesn’t Santa Barbara use this money to improve the co