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Saturday, February 16 , 2019, 4:24 am | Fair 50º


Museum of Natural History’s Master Plan Up for Review

A joint hearing is postponed after the Historic Landmarks Commission fails to show

After 94 years in existence, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is beginning to put its Campus Master Plan through the City of Santa Barbara’s rigorous review process.

A joint meeting on Thursday of museum staff, the Planning Commission and the Historic Landmarks Commission was postponed until July 15 after the HLC failed to show up.

On the table for discussion is a plan to replace and renovate a significant amount of building space on the museum’s main campus — located near the Santa Barbara Mission. While the plan calls for a 50 percent increase in square footage, museum staff said it will be built almost entirely on the existing building footprint, causing only an 11 percent increase in footprint area.

Anticipating that Santa Barbara residents most likely will accept construction that fits the architectural character of the residential area in which it is ensconced, planners continued building profiles for new construction low and residential. Currently, the museum consists of 11 halls totaling more than 18,000 square feet.

When Karl Hutterer took over 10 years ago as director of the museum and the museum-owned Ty Warner Sea Center, the former ethnography professor reportedly was less than impressed with the dilapidated state of the main campus’ collection of aging buildings. Since he came on board, he has worked with his staff to develop a plan to provide the museum with a home better suited for its educational mission. It took until this spring, however, for a conceptual plan to be released.

Situated in the relatively accessible lower end of Mission Canyon, not far from the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, the museum is still within the grasp of the politically powerful Mission Canyon Association — a group of residents who have been in legal and policy battles with the garden for several years. But an informational meeting held by the museum earlier this year indicated the group was more amenable to the plans Hutterer and his staff have in mind.

“We want to better serve the community, and part of doing that involves changes. Does that mean a physical change to the campus? Yes,” said Easter Moorman, museum spokeswoman, adding that Hutterer has had an open-door policy for neighbors and members of the public who wish to ask questions about the plan. “We’re in tune with what the neighbors have said.”

Included in the Campus Master Plan is a provision to perform a restoration of the portion of Mission Creek that runs through it, as well as a stated desire to reach LEED platinum sustainability standards at the facility. Historic buildings on the campus — of which there are several, including the main building, completed in 1922, and the 70-year-old Fleischmann Auditorium — will be refurbished, and other buildings will be replaced with space more suitable to the museum’s mission.

Moorman welcomes the public to contact the museum with questions and comments about the Campus Master Plan.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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