Tuesday, June 10, 2008

City seeks uses for industrial plot


A chunk of city-owned land in Santa Barbara’s industrial zone could get a much-needed facelift after officials formally opened it up to project proposals.
The 2.4-acre plot at 125 S. Calle Cesar Chavez has been sitting relatively vacant since the city’s Redevelopment Agency purchased it for $2.87 million in 2001. Now city leaders hope to attract a creative and functional use for the land that will serve the community.

“This has sort of been hanging fire out there since, oh gosh, since I’ve been here,” Councilmember Iya Falcone said. “…I see a lot of potential.”
The City Council voted unanimously to open up the formal “request for proposals” process on Tuesday.
They shouldn’t have too much trouble bringing in a slew of viable options; informal suggestions for the land have been coming in since the city bought the land.
Propositions have included relocating the school districts’ maintenance and operations facility from Garden and Ortega streets or converting the land into a swath of landscaped open space, a farmer’s market, or overnight RV parking.
And while there is a clear preference for nonprofits and public agencies, the call for suggestions is open to all comers. They’ll just have to meet a few limitations.
Those restrictions include maintaining 20 parking spaces for staff of Casa Esperanza, the homeless shelter on Cacique Street, and building a 16-foot pedestrian and bike pathway across the property to connect Calle Cesar Chavez to Cacique Street.
“That’s something that’s been long-sought by the neighbors,” Councilmember Grant House said of the multi-use pathway, characterizing it as a high priority.
He also asked staff to look into whether Casa Esperanza uses the 20 parking spaces or if that figure could be reduced if not needed.
Other issues include working around a buffer for a drainage channel in the southwest corner, meeting green building standards, and ensuring any structures are compatible with their surroundings.
“Aesthetics are obviously of the utmost importance for this,” RDA Supervisor Brian Bosse said, noting the site is a gateway of sorts — located along the rail corridor and across the tracks from Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.
Previously part of a larger chunk of land held by Union Pacific Railroad Company, the plot has been utilized mainly for industrial uses, including bulk oil storage and distribution. As a result, soil remediation should be expected with any project.
Residential uses are not permitted on the site due to its light industrial zoning. Other than that, the path is wide open for suggestions.
“We are leaving it up to them to come to us if they can meet those criteria,” Redevelopment Specialist Renee Brooke said.
However, Falcone issued a self-described clarion call to the school board and Superintendent Dr. Brian Sarvis to make a proposal — possibly a trade school for local teens.
“This is a prime opportunity,” she said.
Dr. Sarvis confirmed the school board is intrigued by the potential of shifting its maintenance and operations facility to that plot of land.
“We’re very interested. We’ll be talking about it later tonight,” he said, referring to the school board’s Tuesday meeting. “…We’ll probably express extreme interest in that property.”
He said if the maintenance facility is shifted from its current location at Garden and Ortega streets, that land could be used for a number of possible uses, such as a new elementary school if population growth demands one in future years.
“We would probably build a school-type facility on this property,” Dr. Sarvis said.
City officials plan to release the request for proposals on June 18, hold a pre-submittal conference on July 8 to answer questions, and set an August 21 deadline for formal proposals. Authorities could select a project and start the development process by October.

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