Historically an industrial and light-manufacturing district following World War II, the neighborhood in downtown Santa Barbara bound by Highway 101, the Pacific Ocean, State Street and Garden Street has come to be colloquially known as the “Funk Zone”. Situated adjacent to the Santa Barbara Train Station and heavily trafficked tourist destinations like the Santa Barbara Harbor, Stearn’s Wharf and the State Street retail corridor, the Funk Zone serves as the geographical gateway to Santa Barbara. More than 80% of all Santa Barbara visitors pass through its boundaries, compelled by the district’s dozens of activities, wine and beer tasting rooms, restaurants and proximity to lodging. Moreover, the continuing development of innovative residential and retail concepts in the area has ensured that the Funk Zone is far from a mere tourist destination, frequented and patronized by local residents year round, proving the viability of what was once a forgotten neighborhood.
Generally neglected by development since the 1960s, the area became a collection of ramshackle commercial buildings, yielding the derivation of its now widely acknowledged epithet. Owned largely by inattentive landlords and occupied by tenants who’d benefitted from commensurately low lease rates, an arts culture was fostered in the area over the last three decades, much in the vein of New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Portland’s Alberta district and Venice Beach’s Abbot Kinney Street. Like those now exceedingly desirable areas, the arts culture has informed the transformation that’s been actively occurring in the Funk Zone over the last five years. The prevailing opinion amongst local residents and City government is that the Funk Zone is primed for such redevelopment, which in the opinion of many is long overdue.
In addition to the Waterline, a robust pipeline of upcoming projects will continue to spur the Funk Zone’s renaissance in the months and years to come. Slated to open in the summer of 2017, Woodridge Capital Partners’ La Entrada de Santa Barbara project will include a 123 room hotel, luxury residential units and retail spaces for restaurants and shopping. Local firm Mesa Lane Partners has acquired virtually the entire city block directly across the street from the Waterline with intentions of developing more than 100 loft style apartments as well as generous restaurant, shopping and artist studio spaces. Finally, the refurbishment of a number of commercial office and retail spaces, the construction of new condominium units and MOXI: The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation all herald decades of vitality to come for the Funk Zone.