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Isla Vista Properties in Limbo

Supervisors Mulling Over Parking Lot, Empty Church, Neighborhood Clinic


Thursday, May 16, 2013

When the Santa Barbara County Redevelopment Agency (RDA) ​— ​along with all redevelopment agencies in the state ​— ​was dissolved in 2012, the county, as the successor agency to the RDA, was left in possession of three properties in Isla Vista. Officials are now starting to figure out what to do with them. All three were purchased in 2008 and are in the same downtown area of Isla Vista near the Embarcadero loop. They are the home of a former church, a parking lot, and another commercial building, a portion of which is currently leased to the Isla Vista Neighborhood Clinic.

The county, which is currently crafting a Long Range Property Management Plan, has oversight of the three valuable properties but has limited options when it comes to managing them: retain them for a governmental use, retain them for future development, sell them, or use the properties to fulfill an enforceable obligation. The church property ​— ​a vacant 3,600-square-foot building ​— ​is the former home of St. Athanasius Church and was purchased for $1.8 million. It was most recently appraised at $2.2 million. The 45-space parking lot was purchased for $1.4 million and developed at a price tag of $938,000. It was most recently appraised at $2.35 million. The 9,914-square-foot medical clinic was purchased from the I.V. Neighborhood Clinic in 2008 for $2.6 million. It was appraised at $1.6 million last year.

Tuesday, Isla Vista residents and community members urged the Board of Supervisors to consider holding on to at least one of the facilities, as the community is limited when it comes to gathering places for neighborhood conferences. “One of these locations is our only chance,” said Jeff Bessmer of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-op. The buildings are the “only viable option for those types of collaborative meetings,” said Rodney Gould. “It is really important for Isla Vista to have this.” Brian Knowles, a Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics boardmember, urged the supervisors to avoid doing anything that would lead to the closure of the I.V. Neighborhood Clinic, which serves 1,000 people a month.

The board ​— ​which could also turn the properties into a park ​— ​voted in favor of studying the pros and cons of retaining the buildings for a government purpose, for redevelopment, or both. County staff will return with options for the board to consider.