Santa Paula Times

Benches: Downtown merchant tells Council of Main Street problems

April 20, 2005
Santa Paula City Council

More benches will be located within the historic downtown, after the places to sit a spell became the object of some controversy.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesMore benches will be located within the historic downtown, after the places to sit a spell became the object of some controversy. At the April 11 City Council meeting, Jess Victoria said he was happy to see benches returned to Les Maland Plaza.Victoria had objected to the removal of the benches in the past. Two of the benches – which were refurbished – are back in the plaza, a move that Victoria said reflects “a big part of any friendly community” internationally, where people can “sit down and socialize.”Mayor Mary Ann Krause had asked that benches be placed on the agenda, noting “I don’t believe we have enough benches,” and more benches should be placed in the Railroad Plaza and under the Morton Bay Fig tree. The city is applying for a grant for seating, she added.City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said new benches are replacing the old at Veterans Memorial park, and new seating areas are planned for the Green Street Alley project. Further locations will be studied, including at The Warning statue on 10th Street. The benches on Main Street were part of the city’s RDA Main Street renovation of years past, he added.Businesses might be contacted to see if they would like bench seating near their location, suggested Councilman Ray Luna.Bobkiewicz noted that Cheryl Baudizzon, the owner of Brownie’s Basement, “had a concern of benches blocking her entrance…we try to work with businesses and in some cases, most cases, the benches are off to the side and further out. Brownie’s is probably the only place where they are directly in front of the door,” and balancing the needs of the business community with the people must be accomplished.“I love benches and have nothing against them,” said Baudizzon. “I think it’s really sweet that you have them in areas where people can watch the world go by.”
When she first opened her business, Baudizzon said she was impressed by the benches where a husband could conceivably wait while his wife bought fabric at Brownie’s. But such a “perfect world” scenario is not reality.“It’s not just one thing, it’s a combination that makes benches a problem for my business,” with the seating areas directly in front of her door and the people who “sit there all day, for hours and hours and talk…it becomes a problem for others who want to sit.”When the benches were removed, there was no longer the trash that blew into Baudizzon’s store, or the need to clean residue from “sticky” candy and ice cream wrappers that also draw ants. Discarded sunflower seeds draw pigeons that are becoming a nuisance.There have been altercations at the benches; Baudizzon noted that benches should be placed near the city’s murals, an “awesome place” for seating. “The benches are turned backwards now, but it’s not helping at all, I’ll be glad when the benches are gone,” she concluded.“The sooner we do something the better,” said Krause, who noted that she had passed by Brownie’s and noticed the bench traffic.“I enjoy sitting on the bench, you meet people, get to meet the locals,” but the proper location must be found, said Luna.“My analysis is that we have growing pains” while the downtown is developing, said Councilman Gabino Aguirre. “I think part of what we see is the effort of people who want to come together and socialize. My vision for the downtown is that we’re going to have beautiful shops, lots of benches, lots of shade…this is part of our growing pains.”“When we were kids we called them the spit and argue club,” noted Vice Mayor Rick Cook of those who populated city benches. Benches were removed in the past and “have been a part of our history…maybe we need a monitor but I agree” that benches must be properly placed to balance with business needs and those of the public.