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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 9:42 am | Fair 58º


MTD Rejects Sublease for The Living Room Venue at Vacant Goleta Building

Disappointed organizers of the all-ages, drug-free music facility say the hunt for a new home will continue

Allan Viscarra’s hopes of finding a new home for The Living Room — the all-ages, drug-free music venue — were dashed last week when the Metropolitan Transit District denied a request to sublease a building its owns in Goleta.

“It was a huge blow to us because we did a tremendous amount of work to get to where we were,” Viscarra said.

Viscarra has been working with the New Noise Music Foundation to find a building for the volunteer-driven club since its long-term location was turned into what is now the Fairview Business Center. The organization was started in 1991 by Larry Mills, who has since moved away and “handed the torch” to Viscarra with the job of finding a building.

He thought he had.

MarBorg Industries rents the 5353 Overpass Road property from MTD for equipment storage, and offered the attached, empty building to Viscarra rent-free. With help from planners, lawyers and architects, detailed renovation plans and a conditional-use permit were written so the industrial space could be transformed into a well-attended venue. MarBorg officials offered to pay for renovations — and remove them if the lease ended — and any paperwork needed to seal the deal.

But the MTD board Tuesday denied the sublease and effectively killed that building as a possibility.

MTD used the property as a bus yard until 2000, and intends to use the property again in the future, something MTD was up front about, said district general manager Sherrie Fisher. The building is leased to MarBorg as industrial space in the meantime.

Since The Living Room would need to undertake some renovations and make the space appropriate for music and crowds, “it would be difficult for us if we allowed them to do that, then wanted to take the facility back,” she said.

The board also had concerns about liability, inadequate parking, and access to and from Patterson Avenue.

Fisher said she is a big fan of The Living Room — her now-adult children loved it when they were younger, she said — but added that MTD’s building is just not the right place.

“We are sorry that we have to say no,” she said. “I certainly hope someone within the community has appropriate space for them so they can move forward.”

Viscarra said this isn’t the end for The Living Room, but he is clearly disappointed.

“I guess rather than giving us the opportunity for success, they’d rather have us not be there,” he said.

“If we get a really cool, successful Living Room going at that property, and they say they need to use it for buses, they would look like the bad guy — and I totally understand and get that,” he added. “It’s just unfortunate that a building with a lot of potential and positive responses from Goleta people sits empty at this point.”

The Living Room needs an affordable building because it has little money as a nonprofit organization, and needs adequate parking space, Viscarra said. With loud music and large crowds, it needs to be away from residential neighborhoods and near a main road for easy access. He’s looking for new leads.

“We want the community to know that it’s still wanted by a lot of young people,” Viscarra said. “It’s still definitely needed in this community — an alternative social space where kids experience music and have a great time without the pressures of drugs and alcohol.”

Not only did the club put on “killer shows,” but Viscarra and New Noise want The Living Room to be even better than it was before, with more workshops and opportunities for teenagers to learn skills in booking or marketing shows, running a club or even doing sound and lighting.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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