Column – Shedding light on Loma Alta Drive

Oscar Gutierrez

Growing up most of us probably had at least one grandparent who would lecture us about how they walked miles up hill, in a variety of different weather conditions in order to get to school only to be grateful and proud to be there.

I never thought I would relate to their plight, but recently I found myself making a hazardous trek to school almost everyday on one of Santa Barbara’s most beautiful, but yet dangerous and unappreciated roads.

Loma Alta Drive is a road that you’ve probably driven on before because it starts at the entrance to the Ledbetter Beach’s parking lot on Shoreline Drive. It then splits through City College’s campus, crosses Cliff Drive and boarders McKinley Elementary. It ends right before San Andres Street starts, on the lower west side.

The road lies about half way up and wines and curves its way across the hillside. The view from this part of the road encapsulates Santa Barbara’s beauty, as all of the city’s distinguishing landmarks can be seen. The Mission, the Courthouse, the Arlington and Granada Theaters and the Rivera just to name a few.

If you were to drive by you probably wouldn’t think you could walk on the road because there’s no sidewalk. Only a dirt path about 24 inches wide in most parts and boarders the edge of the steep hillside that’s about 100 feet from the bottom.

I live on the upper west side and taking Loma Alta is the fastest way to get to SBCC. Sure I can take the bus and have it take twice as long than if I walked. I can also walk through the lower west side ghetto via San Pascual Street, but due to the recent rise in gang stabbings in that area, I’d rather take my chances on Loma Alta Drive.

Like I stated earlier the road is snaky and there are only two guard rails that span less than ten yards each. Leaving the majority of the road vulnerable for pedestrians.

It’s also hazardous for bicyclist and skateboarders. Sometimes they back up traffic to the point that they have a convoy behind them.

Walking on the dirt path while or after it rains feels like competing on a Japanese game show. One misstep on the uneven and muddy terrine and you’d be done for. And walking on it at night is practically suicide, as there are no streetlights.

The best and widest part of the road is also where it gets its name, the Loma. Literally it means Balconies of Beautiful Hill. It refers to the terraced nature of the hill. It’s so wide that it can fit about four cars side by side and you can often find photographers and painters practicing their art.

I would like the city to develop Loma Alta Drive so it is safer and more accessible for pedestrians during all times of the day and all types of weather. Unfortunately, I realize that there might not be enough money to do it.

For me describing the feeling I get on my daily excursion to school is hard to describe. All the struggle and danger is worth it once I stand at the Loma and I can see all that is Santa Barbara, the city that I was born and raised in.

I can see the mountains, the building and the beaches. I can feel the cool breeze and smell the fresh air. When I walk to school I realize how lucky I am to live and learn in such a beautiful place.