Earlier this year, the Pensacola Beach Advocates conducted a survey of its members on important issues for Pensacola Beach. The survey was mailed to all PBA members and Pensacola Beach leaseholders. It was also accessible via the PBA website. The results reflect the opinions of those who took the time to respond. Included in the respondents were residential and commercial leaseholders, PBA members, beach residents, and non-Beach Escambia County residents.
The majority of respondents feel that the PBA should focus its efforts the passage of fee simple title legislation to eliminate leaseholders’ double taxation and pursue the refund of lease fees from Escambia County that were paid in conjunction with taxes. Additionally, the survey showed that many believe it's important that the PBA help ensure that Pensacola Beach remains a quiet, peaceful and natural location for both residents and tourists. Restructuring the current form of two tier government (Escambia County and Santa Rosa Island Authority), pedestrian safety, and beach improvements should also be part of the PBA agenda. Less than ten percent thought that the PBA should spend time on increasing business and tourism on the beach.
When asked how should the SRIA prioritize the RESTORE funds it receives from the BP Oil Spill, 61% agreed that Gulfside beach re-nourishment and dune walk overs is the number one priority. Followed by (2) updating the storm water drainage on the island, (3) creating pedestrian friendly crossings, (4) upgrading core area with turtle friendly and pedestrian lighting, (5) stabilizing all shoulders on CR 399, (6) resurfacing all roads and parking lots on Pensacola Beach, (7) widening and deepening approach to Little Sabine Bay, (8) improving Gulfside Pavilion including seating and stage facilities, and (9) installing lights at Park West parking lot.
SRIA services are paid for by both residential and commercial lease fees. On a scale of excellent to poor, the SRIA received an average rating for administrative services such as policy, construction, code and fiscal management. Respondents were split among good and average for street and bike path maintenance. This category actually received the highest poor ranking (19%). The SRIA earned a good rating from the majority of respondents for Emergency Management communication; beach appearance and amenities such as landscaping and parks; and the cleanliness of the beach, streets and parking lots. Fifty-four percent of the respondents agreed that the SRIA is doing an excellent job with water safety and 48% awarded an excellence rating to beach events hosted by the SRIA such as Bands on the Beach and the Blue Angels Air Show.
Most everyone interacts with the crosswalks on Via de Luna, either with a car or on foot, and 64% of respondents feel that for everyone's safety the crosswalks need to be illuminated with flashing lights. There was a strong sentiment in the comments section for this question that someone was going to get killed because the crosswalks are dangerous due to lack of lighting, lack of understanding of the law by drivers, and lack of enforcement by the deputies.
Finally, when asked if changes should be made to Ariola Drive to alleviate parking congestion and safety concerns, 36% want no changes, but 64% believe there should be some kind of change -- from painting a white line to demarcate south side parking only (29%), to eliminating all parking on Ariola or making Ariola one way with the Avenidas fully cut through (14% each). Of note were the 7% who offered additional suggestions such as "No parking on Ariola unless issued a guest pass from a resident," "Add more consistently and evening spaced 'No Parking on this side of street' signs," and "Only residents of Ariola Drive should have input on this."
The PBA will continue to ask for beach resident and leaseholders input throughout the year using such vehicles as surveys and social media.