When the Spaniards arrived in this area in the 1700s, the land in what’s now the southeastern section of the city of Santa Barbara wasn’t exactly land. It was more like an estuary, a swampland with marshes and lagoons fed by creeks that channeled water from the Riviera slopes to the flatland below. Over the years, landfill enabled businesses, farms and small industries to set up shop.
Fast forward to today, and you’ll find a burgeoning neighborhood so diverse, and evolving so quickly, that up until now, it has defied description and a unified identity. That is, until late summer 2015, when the proprietors of three neighborhood businesses (Oniracom, Pure Order Brewing Co. and Playback Recording Studio) met and came up with an idea to brand the district and connect members of the community.
Oniracom CEO Jacob Tell says they discussed the challenge confronting them. “We’re not The Funk Zone. We’re not Milpas Street. We’re not in the official downtown Historic District. So who are we?”
After a few subsequent meetings, the group chose a name that connects the community with its early roots: the Lagoon District. Borders were drawn, all above Highway 101: Montecito Street on the south, Cota Street on the north, Anacapa Street on the west and Milpas Street on the east. “It’s about bringing energy, commerce and awareness to the area. It’s like a social network. We wanted to boost visibility for everyone here, keep the family businesses going and let people know about new energy that’s moved in. The Lagoon District is down-to-earth. It’s about the authentic Santa Barbara. There’s nothing LA about it,” says Tell.
For now, the initiative maintains a bilingual Spanish/English website (lagoonsb.com) that includes background and contact information about members, ongoing feature stories about longtime neighborhood businesses like Carniceria La Bodeguita and Rose Cafe, and neighborhood history. Best of all, membership is free.
“This is about inclusion,” says Tell. “We want to give back to the community and highlight what this area has to offer from a local’s perspective.” Other plans include regular block parties and special events, job listings and a loyalty reward program.
Johannes Sauer, CEO of Suissly, a new home interior furnishing company, shares the enthusiasm for the new venture that’s buzzing around the ‘hood. “We are excited that we’re part of the Lagoon District as it provides Suissly with a local community, adds energy to the office and affords additional brand visibility to people who otherwise were unaware of our team.”
This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.