Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce Announces Plan to Reinvigorate Economy

An initiative led by the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, and its Economic Development Committee, is underway to support long term economic vitality, job growth, and tourism in the region. The mission of this integrated effort is to take an action-oriented approach to accelerating economic recovery, with the initial focus on the region’s downtown core.


Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce CEO, Kristen Miller says, “This is a critical initiative. As a newly merged business organization, we have a collective need to reimagine how our economy can thrive.”


The economic development committee was formed as one of the first steps following the merger of the three former chambers.  It is made up of 12 business leaders who are an integral part of their communities, from Goleta to Carpinteria.  Committee chair, Kirsten McLaughlin of Cox Communication shares, “Our committee members represent a diverse selection of industries and are leaders who understand how to drive economic growth. Our goal is to develop a downtown core that generates a powerful economy that ultimately extends throughout the community.”


Committee member and Montecito Bank and Trust Chairman and CEO, Janet Garufis, continues, “Our community’s residents and guests have diverse needs and interests and we want to support the development of businesses that can both respond to this demand and help downtown Santa Barbara thrive.”


The committee has approved a business recruitment and retention plan developed by local Keith Higbee of Strategic Growth & Ventures and small business advocate Amy Cooper, Owner of Plum Goods, that is now underway. Based on the wealth of existing studies and recommendations, new research and metrics and ongoing stakeholder engagement, the SBEDP will aim to recruit a diverse mix of entities to repopulate downtown Santa Barbara’s core business district. This effort will include addressing business retention and support for our current small business community.


This initiative is a bridge between private and public entities and independent of any one interest. Gaining insight from city planners and officials, commercial realtors, business owners and leaders, developers, nonprofit partners, and more, is the key to developing an actionable plan to successfully drive thoughtful economic development in the downtown core.


Francois De John, a founding partner at Hayes Commercial Group also sits on the committee. He shares the value of this initiative. “This is a great opportunity to build a successful partnership between commercial realtors and a focused group of business and community leaders. Our industry always welcomes creative ways to identify strategic businesses that can become a long term part of State Street, and beyond.”


A key to this plan’s success is the alignment in the vision of State Street’s future and how to create a thriving district that will ultimately extend beyond the confines of State Street and serve the entire region.


An informational survey will soon be conducted to gain input from the community and results will be shared in the coming weeks.  This initial venture is funded by the Chamber, with additional partners including City of Santa Barbara, Visit Santa Barbara, and Better Together Fund. More partners will be identified as funding is secured.

Insights from Chamber’s Roadmap to Recovery

Moving from the red tier back to the purple tier, amid swift changes to Governor Newsom’s color-coded policy, came as a shock Monday morning. This new development is another reminder that we are operating in a very fluid environment. While changes may happen rapidly, our team will continue to stay on top of the latest developments. We have a program in place that is set up to respond to these dynamic shifts while focusing on specific economic sectors. Roadmap to Recovery looks at 11 industry sectors to provide specific guidance and resources, with the initial rollout focusing on a 90-day strategy. Our leadership team, in partnership with committee and board members, are understanding what the latest tier requirements mean for each sector and will be sharing this information in the coming days. For now, we have provided the following initial insight.


Agri-Business – Due to missing a number of holiday sales our agri-businesses are looking to find ways to make up missed revenue in the next ninety days and to have more business generation in time for Valentine’s Day. This is also exacerbated by the limiting of gatherings and essentially the postponement of large events including weddings, banquets, and corporate


Arts/Culture – This sector has been missed altogether in the guidance provided by the state for safe reopening. Due to this oversight many entertainers, performing arts groups, theatres and concert halls have great uncertainty for when modified business can resume.


Business Services – Business services have uncertainty around the opportunity to hire back employees who were previously laid off in the next ninety days.


Childcare – There is a great level of uncertainty for childcare providers as it is still unknown whether the schools may or may not be open and that businesses may or may not be open. This also is influenced by the trends impacting the workforce due to these unknown variables.


Education – Our education system is experiencing the challenge of addressing unknown budgets from the State in the coming months.


Lodging/Hospitality – Our lodging partners pride themselves on providing a safe travel experience. To date we haven’t had a single case trace back to a hotel in Santa Barbara County. With this news we continue to welcome travelers who deem themselves healthy to travel.


Mental Health/Health Care – Our mental health care professionals and healthcare providers are concerned that with remote working situations, employers are not as easily able to read and address personal matters and coping skills. The health care system also has expressed concern of the increasing need of mental health services in the coming months due to impacts from the pandemic.


Non-Profits – Many non-profits are concerned about charitable contributions and generous giving as we approach the end of the year to meet the fundraising needs of their organizations.


Retail – Retailers usually look at the end of the year as a pivotal moment in their business models who are reliant and anticipate higher revenue generation during holiday months.


Technology/Manufacturing – Our large employers in the biomedical, technology, software, and manufacturing industries have made swift adaptations to keep their employees working, their products moving, and their manufacturing lines open under modified conditions. They are cautiously optimistic for steady incremental growth over the next ninety days and provide a much-needed stability in the local economy and jobs.


Wineries and Breweries – This industry has likely seen the most change in the last eight months and credits unprecedented collaboration between business and government agencies to assist in their adaptation. However, with limited capacity and the winter months ahead, their ninety-day challenge is to make enough revenue to survive.

Public Policy Update

In October the Chamber’s Public Policy Committee heard from Sara Dearman, the Government and Public Affairs Advisor for Chevron’s West Coast Decommissioning (WCD) Program. Ms. Dearman gave an overview of the background of the project and presented on the timeline and scope of work to address the decommissioning process of these off shore platforms as well as the on shore facilities removal and soil restoration procedures.

Click here for the presentation…

Roadmap to Recovery Update

The Chamber is in the midst of robust conversations for our Roadmap to Recovery and we are learning so much! We are thankful for our 70+ members who have participated in our Agribusiness, Arts & Culture, Education, Lodging/Hospitality/Tourism, Childcare, Business Services, and Manufacturing/Tech industry sector focus groups.

We are gathering crucial details about their adaptations, recovery efforts, financial obstacles, and biggest challenges during this unprecedented period. Our charge is to map a course for recovery, based on lofty efforts over the next 6-12-18 months ahead, and establish realistic goals for business openings, tourism growth, manufacturing output, customer numbers, financial improvements, and bringing back our workforce. The Chamber’s goal is to provide a business-community focused plan, featuring tactics and milestones that will help lead us out of the COVID crisis.

We began with our Roadmap to Recovery Chamber Task Force virtual meeting followed by our Industry Champion Strategic Planning virtual meetings earlier this month and are now gathering information from our Member Industry Sectors: Agribusiness, Arts/Culture, Childcare/Education, Healthcare/Mental Health, Lodging/Hospitality/Tourism, Manufacturing/Technology, Non-Profits/Philanthropy, Restaurants/Wineries/Breweries, and Retail.

For more information or wish to participate, please contact or call 805.967.2500 Ext. 106

Santa Barbara State of the City Highlights Opportunities and Challenges for City

Click here to watch the 2020 Santa Barbara State of the City

Santa Barbara will recover from the COVID-19 public health crisis “better, stronger and united,” Mayor Cathy Murillo said during Friday’s State of the City address via Zoom.

“We will overcome these challenges because Santa Barbara is resilient,” she said at the virtual event, sponsored by the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce. “This is a city of determined and hardworking people, and we have recovered from past disasters.”

Speaking at a podium outside against the backdrop of the Santa Barbara City CollegeWest Campus lawn, Murillo said the pandemic and its impacts that followed are still playing out, and it will take time to fully recover.

“The council’s posture will remain legislatively vigilant,” she said. “We are focused on preparing for the long road to full recovery, a new investment, by initiating efforts to reduce red tape and streamline land development permitting in the city.”

It is about eight months into the pandemic. Murillo touted Santa Barbara’s pandemic response and the partnerships with local organizations to assist those most affected by COVID-19.

She said Santa Barbara provided additional funding for social services throughout a partnership with United Way of Santa Barbara County and entered into new partnerships with the Santa Barbara Foundation to offer small-business grants.

“For those businesses that have had to close or those that are struggling to reopen and recover,” Murillo said, “my heart goes out to each and every one of you. We will continue to keep our resident and business needs in focus.”

In the early weeks of the pandemic, Murillo said she called on Santa Barbara’s business community to gather ideas and solutions through a business advisory task force in response to the economic impact of Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s stay-at-home order as well as school closures and nonessential business closures. The task force, made up of 20 business members, participated weekly for three months.

“Those initial solutions were the foundation to our climb back,” Murillo said during her 15-minute address.

A recommendation led to the Santa Barbara City Council’s authorization to close lower State Street to cars to allow restaurants to expand their dining outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The city decided in May to close parts of downtown State Street, and it created a “new public space in the center of downtown to interact with neighbors and enjoy our new village center,” she said.

Homelessness is a constant challenge in Santa Barbara, Murillo said, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue by limiting the city’s ability to clear homeless encampments under public health order.

“The city is focused on making an impact with multiple new initiatives to address this longstanding problem,” Murillo said about homelessness.

A wide range of solutions are required to tackle the varying needs of individuals experiencing homelessness, she said.

The Santa Barbara Connect Home program focuses on the needs of the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. Murillo shouted out the newly established partnership among the city, Cottage Health, the Santa Barbara Police Department, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara and PATH Santa Barbara.

Other efforts focus on preventing vulnerable residents from becoming homeless.

Santa Barbara received federal funding to address the pandemic through the community development block grant program, according to Murillo. Funds were provided to offer three months of rental assistance to at-risk households, she said.

Murillo said the city helped establish a new Community Food Collaborative, a multisector partnership. The program aimed to address hunger among unsheltered populations in Santa Barbara in response to COVID-19 while also supporting small food businesses, according to the Community Food Collaborative.

Santa Barbara’s Average Unit-size Density Incentive program, known as AUD, had produced more than 430 new housing units in the past seven years, with 302 units approved “that can be constructed in the near future,” she said. “This level of housing production hasn’t occurred since the 1970s.”

The city is updating its accessory dwelling unit ordinance to align with California law. Santa Barbara permitted 350 accessory dwelling units, colloquially known as granny flats, since 2017, Murillo said.

“Applications continue to come in at a steady pace,” she said.

Murillo said Santa Barbara completed 27 capital improvement projects in the past year, with a total value of $150 million. There are 18 capital improvement projects in construction and 30 in design, Murillo said.

“These investments will improve access and connections to the waterfront, and our downtown,” she said.

The Santa Barbara Library‘s plaza on Anapamu Street will serve as the central hub for the city’s arts district, and its revitalization coincides with the new vision for the downtown area, Murillo said. The project calls for improving the library’s outdoor space to accommodate events and programming.

“The library continued its excellent work engaging, educating and enhancing our community,” Murillo said.

Santa Barbara set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035, Murillo said. The city is working on several initiatives to help achieve this goal, including the community choice energy program.

The mayor used her prepared remarks for her third annual State of the City address to call attention to racial injustice and social inequity, and how deaths of black citizens involving law enforcement officers refocused the national and local conversation. She spoke of George Floyd, who died in police custody, in Minneapolis in May.

“This death sparked a national awakening of the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for racial justice,” Murillo said, mentioning Healing Justice Santa Barbara and organizations that are partnering with Santa Barbara on what the city can do to address issues of systemic racism and social inequity.

The Santa Barbara City Council is establishing the city’s Community Formation Commission to advise on the creation of a civilian police review system for the Santa Barbara Police Department.

“The city is listening and responding,” Murillo said. “We are committed to police operations that are responsive to our community and free of brutality and misconduct.”

Santa Barbara has “one of the finest police chiefs in the state, Lori Luhnow, and dedicated professional men and women in the department who are committed to serving our residents with transparency and community engagement,” Murillo said.

Luhnow, the first woman chief of the Santa Barbara Police Department, began her position in July 2016.

Murillo also acknowledged the Santa Barbara City Council’s action to rename a street on Santa Barbara’s Eastside. Indio Muerto, which means dead Indian in Spanish, is being changed to Hutash Street, which means Earth mother.

“The change will remove a hurtful public street name from our city,” she said.

Local Economy and Santa Barbara’s Financial Outlook

City Administrator Paul Casey said local economic effects of the pandemic were “severe.” He provided an update on the local economy and Santa Barbara’s financial outlook.

Santa Barbara received “very little federal assistance,” he said. The Santa Barbara Airport got about $9.5 million in relief funding, and the state provided a little more than $1 million in CARES Actassistance that covered some public safety expenses.

Casey said the city received about $500,000 in community development block grant funds for human service purposes.

“At this point, we are not expecting or planning for additional federal assistance,” he said, adding that state and local governments need federal assistance “to get us through these times.”

Casey said $6.7 million in the city’s reserve funds were used to cover the initial deficit in fiscal year 2020, and the city expects to use a “more modest amount of reserves to see us through the fiscal year 2021.”

“What is unique about this budget event considered to others is every category of city revenues has been impacted and stressed,” he said.

Sales tax and bed tax are the two largest revenue sources affected by Santa Barbara’s budget. The bed tax revenues were 33 percent lower than August 2019. The local tourist industry took a hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A dramatic drop, but we are seeing steady growth month over month in our bed tax revenues,” he said. “So far, it’s right in line with our budget projections for this fiscal year.”

The latest sales tax information from the state will be available in November.

The pandemic forced Santa Barbara to take dramatic actions to address the fiscal impacts to the city’s operating budget, Casey said.

The city laid off about 400 part-time or hourly employees. These were seasonal or hourly workers who supported after-school activities, summer camps, parking kiosks and “other similar activities that were fully shut down, so we had no work to offer,” Casey said. “As those services are coming back, we are rehiring those staff.”

A citywide hiring freeze went into effect, some capital improvement projects were put on hold and city departments began to cut their budgets in response to the COVID-19 situation, Casey said.

“These immediate and decisive actions saved the city’s general fund millions of dollars,” he said.

Casey said that “establishing a budget in the middle of the onset of the pandemic was one of the most challenging budget processes I’ve experienced in 30 years.”

In closing, Jason Harris, Santa Barbara’s economic development manager, addressed the city’s economic development initiatives.

Harris said Santa Barbara quickly became a statewide leader “as we were one of the earliest and most aggressive jurisdictions” to support outdoor operations at businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The revamped State Street downtown promenade made the area more pedestrian-friendly and features the installation of parklets for expanded outside service.

The actions “saved countless businesses from closing and hundreds of jobs from being lost,” Harris said.

More upgrades along downtown State Street are in the pipeline, including lighting and roadway enhancements to provide better direction for cyclists.

“These are interim steps,” Harris said. “The city has initiated a visioning effort for the future of State Street.”

Santa Barbara is the second of the four-part State of the City series hosted by the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce. The leading business-support organization held the State of Carpinteria in September, and it will continue the event series by hosting the State of Goleta in November and the State of Santa Barbara County in December.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Chambers United to Create Tri-County Chamber Alliance

The Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties recently voted to create a new Tri-County Chamber Alliance. The newly formed Alliance would will include thirteen Chambers of Commerce throughout Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties effective January 1, 2021. The Santa Barbara Southcoast Chamber has taken an active lead in forming a stronger Alliance representing the three neighboring counties.

The mission of the Tri-County Alliance is to foster collaboration among the region’s chambers of commerce and to advocate for policies that promote a friendlier business climate.

The Tri-County Alliance will act as a public policy advocacy group and take action on appropriate regional, state and federal legislation that impacts the business and economic climates. Issues will include Economic Development, Infrastructure, Workplace Regulations, Taxes and Fees on Business, Workplace Development, and Housing and be discussed at the monthly meetings.

The Alliance will continue to contract with Fred Main of Clear Advocacy, LLC for researching and summarizing issues, tracking and recording voting records of elected officials, and facilitating, educating, and coordinating local business advocacy efforts in Sacramento and Washington D.C. and discussing at the monthly meetings.


Chamber Jr. Carpinteria Scholarship Fund of Carpinteria Update

The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, from Goleta to Carpinteria is happy to announce that the Jr. Carpinterian Scholarship applications will be available in January 2021.

The Chamber will continue to honor the Carpinterian of The Year, Jr. Carpinterian of the Year, two Jr. Carpinterian Scholarship Finalists, two Teachers of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, and Merit Awards honoring volunteers from 20 local non-profit organizations.

The Jr. Carpinterian Scholarships are available to any graduating senior who is a resident of the Carpinteria Valley.

The Jr. Carpinterian Scholarship’s are planned to be awarded in the Spring 2021. The Chamber will once again offer three Scholarships to well deserving graduating seniors. The Jr. Carpinterian of the Year (Jr. COY) will receive a $4,000 Scholarship and two finalists will each receive a $1,500 Scholarship. Two Teachers of the Year will also be awarded Scholarship funds for supplies and to enhance their classrooms.

For more information or to contribute to the Junior Carpinterian Scholarship Fund, please contact or call 805.967/2500 Ext. 206.

Chamber Presents Santa Barbara State of the City

The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, from Goleta to Carpinteria hosted a virtual State of the City-Santa Barbara on Friday, October 30th at 9AM. The State of the City was broadcast from Santa Barbara City College.

Santa Barbara is the second of the four-part State of the City series. The Chamber hosted the State of the City-Carpinteria in September, and will continue the series by hosting State of the City-Goleta in November and a State of the County in December.

Click here to watch the 2020 Santa Barbara State of the City

Chamber Advocates for COVID-19 Restaurant Reopening Plan

October 23, 2020

The Honorable Gavin Newsom Governor of California
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: COVID-19 Restaurant Reopening Plan

Dear Governor Newsom:

The Covid-19 public health and economic crisis continues to devastate the local restaurant community in Santa Barbara County. While we appreciate the complexity of the ongoing crisis and the actions you have taken to date, we see first-hand the continued economic and employment fallout. As a former Mayor and restaurateur yourself, we trust you can imagine the toll on local citizenries, budgets, and community.

Many restaurants have closed, putting thousands of people out of work. Many more will close permanently if you don’t allow a workable pathway to safe, indoor dining in the very near future.

While outdoor dining has helped some restaurants, it has certainly not been the wide-scale savior some expected – as we have seen be the case with our neighbors to the North and South who have been impacted by the wildfires, our Central Coast communities have suffered from poor air quality as a consequence to these natural disasters. Soon, seasonal and temperature changes will also render patio dining much less practical.

Restaurants closed for the greater public good as a result of your orders. Limiting operations to take- out, delivery, and patio dining results in far fewer employees on payrolls and is unsustainable as a business model for our local restaurants.

We have yet to see contact tracing data to support bringing an entire economic sector to a
halt. Restaurants have been very productive partners with you, are among the largest sources of state and local sales tax revenue, employ massive numbers of California residents, and now they need your help desperately. They have risen to your calls since the outset of the epidemic at incredible personal cost and loss of lifelong dreams – the state has a moral obligation to help them get to the other side of this crisis.

The County of Santa Barbara has consistently enforced all state and local COVID-19 regulations and remains committed to protecting public health while helping restaurants operate in a safe manner and at sustainable indoor capacity levels. The current tier system crushes the local restaurant community as a result of COVID-19 spread outside of their facilities and influence. Restaurants have some of the most stringent industry protocols and guidance issued by the state and enhanced by local Health Orders.

Restaurants need to be able to move back inside in a safe and immediate manner with an achievable pathway to 75% occupancy. Please help us protect our community jobs, economy, and public health.

We respectfully ask that you continue to improve upon the state tiered program by providing restaurants a more realistic pathway to getting back inside – as soon and as safely as possible.




On behalf of the Santa Barbara County Chambers of Commerce

Chamber Supports City of Santa Barbara Homelessness Initiative

October 27, 2020

RE: SUPPORT for Agenda Item 13 – Fiscal Year 2022 Human Services And Community Development Block Grant Funding Process, Priorities, And Criteria

Dear Mayor and City Council Members,

We would like to issue our support for Item 13 and request that careful thought be given to change some resources and approaches to the homelessness situation given COVID-19. The growing concern around the rise of homeless encampments, transient interaction with tourism, vandalism, theft and unsafe conditions due to the changes in our community and economy during the pandemic and subsequent economic meltdown.

We recommend a focus on homeless housing, mental health, and alcohol/drug addiction programs. The business community is desperate for support in not just dealing with this problem but supporting programs that actually stop the problem. Everything has changed. We ask that new approaches and programs be implemented.

Health and safety is everyone’s top priority. The current situation stands to threaten the viability of our tourism industry, our business recovery efforts, and therefore Santa Barbara’s economy. It is critical we assist the business community in preserving jobs in our community and assisting the economic recovery that our members are working toward.

Having homelessness encampments in highly visible corridors, and the constant threat of safety issues for existing businesses, prevents us from achieving that.

We know there are many challenges facing the City currently. The Chamber and the business community are here to be your partners and supporters. We understand this is a crisis and are ready to help make a change. Please consider any efforts to develop short- and long-term solutions to reduce the unfortunate homelessness crisis.