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Council Approves Annexation of Properties to House New Sansum Clinic Facilities

Medical offices are slated for two merged parcels at Foothill and Cieneguitas roads, while a third would remain home to Foothill Pet Hospital

It’s been a “problem property” for years, but now the parcels at Foothill and Cieneguitas roads in Santa Barbara, one of which was vacant and the other the site of a dilapidated gas station, are slated to become the home for a set of new medical facilities.

On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to annex three of the properties in the area — at 4151 Foothill Road, and 681 and 675 Cieneguitas Road — into city limits from county control. The council voted 6-0 to approve the annexation, with Councilwoman Cathy Murillo absent.

As of Tuesday’s vote, the council approved the annexation of those properties that make a large triangle bounded by Highway 154, Cieneguitas Road and Foothill Road with a commercial land use designation.

The existing abandoned gas station at the corner of Foothill Road and Highway 154 would be demolished and two new two-story office buildings totaling 60,122 square feet would be built on the merged parcels at 4151 Foothill Road and 681 Cieneguitas Road, known as “Foothill Centre.” The third parcel at 657 Cieneguitas Road is home to Foothill Pet Hospital, which would stay at that location.

The buildings would be occupied by Sansum Clinic and would include an outpatient surgery center, a medical clinic and administrative offices. The new building would allow Sansum to consolidate facilities and some of the operations and staff, according to Sansum CEO Dr. Kurt Ransohoff. It would be the first new building for Sansum built in decades.

Several doctors spoke in favor of the move Tuesday, including Dr. Jim Egan, a Sansum gastroenterologist. He said health-care reform may cause an influx of patients into the system, and a dedicated ambulatory surgical center will be key.

The project would also “greatly assist in recruiting new doctors to community,” he told the council.

The council was supportive of the project and the move to bring the properties into the city’s fold.

The property has an extensive history and has long been an eyesore. Two separate gas stations once operated there, and the last to be operating hasn’t been open since 1999.

Almost 30 years ago, the soil and groundwater for one of the parcels owned by Mobil was discovered to be contaminated because of a leaking underground fuel tank from the former gas station. Mobil held onto the property and sold to the current owner in 1999, but left a deed restriction prohibiting any residential development.

Developer Michael Towbes has tried to get that restriction lifted, but to no avail.  Towbes told the council Tuesday that he hopes to have building permits on the properties by Jan. 2013.

Last month, the city’s Planning Commission approved a development plan for the medical office and recommended that all three of the parcels be annexed into city limits.

Now, after Tuesday’s vote, the city will submit an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, to approve the boundary change.

Councilman Bendy White called the area “a conundrum property,” but that the annexation was “an elegant solution.”

Those familiar with the area know that the animal hospital has a pole sign advertising the location on the property, but that type of sign isn’t allowed within city limits.

After one representative from the animal hospital asked the City Council not to have the pole removed, they decided to allow the sign to stay for five years, and at that point, the owners can apply to the sign committee for a further exception. If they aren’t given one, the sign will have to come down.

As for the new buildings slated for the area, Mayor Helene Schneider issued her approval.

“I look forward to seeing this project move forward for the basic health care of our community,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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