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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 8:09 am | Partly Cloudy 44º


National Guard Armory Property Purchase Still in the Works for Santa Barbara School District

The state appraises the property at $11.6 million, but the district says that doesn't address lead contamination, soil liquefaction and retrofitting needs


The state wants $11.6 million for the Santa Barbara National Guard Armory property, and the school district planning to buy it has been pushing back on the price.

Santa Barbara Unified gets first dibs on the purchase, but it still hasn't finalized its acquisition.

The California Department of General Services will make a fair market value appraisal of the property and will not negotiate on price, according to the district.

The armory property, at 700 E. Canon Perdido St., covers a city block between Santa Barbara Junior High School and Santa Barbara High School. National Guard signage and stored military vehicles have been removed from the property, which is surrounded by a chain-link fence with barbed wire.

Local voters approved the Measure I school bond in 2016, and the Board of Education’s funding priority list included purchasing and upgrading the armory property into an educational facility.

The district hired its own consultants to evaluate and appraise the property, and they found issues including lead contamination, soil liquefaction, and significant retrofitting and maintenance costs for the old buildings, staff members said Thursday during a special meeting of the school board and the Santa Barbara City Council.

The Santa Barbara National Guard Armory property at 700 E. Canon Perdido St. sits between Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High schools. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara High School, left, is across the street from the armory.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

All of that, the district argues, reduces the value of the property by 50 percent.

The state’s appraisal, delivered in January, was written last year and does not address all of the work that needs to be done to the property, which is troubling, said Craig Price, legal counsel for the district.

“There will have to be a great deal of money spent to rectify these problems,” he said. A district staff report estimated several million dollars.  

The military has been conducting some lead cleanup on the property, as is required before a property transfer, district staff noted.

Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said he and other district representatives met with Department of General Services and military personnel in Sacramento on Tuesday, and that the meeting was encouraging. The state will be sending a team and appraiser to Santa Barbara to meet with district staff and its appraiser, he said.

Construction at Peabody Stadium. Click to view larger
The Peabody Stadium renovation project, as seen in October, is replacing the grandstands, track and field.  (Santa Barbara Unified School District photo)

The city reportedly gifted the land to the National Guard in the 1930s for $1, Matsuoka said, adding, “We asked if they’d give it back for a dollar; that didn’t get very far.”

Local volleyball clubs used the armory’s main gym, on the Nopal Street side of the property, frequently before sale talks started, but district consultants determined that the 1938 building was dangerous, Matsuoka noted at the meeting.

If the district takes ownership, it would not rent out the gym until it was deemed safe, he added.

Peabody Stadium renovation

The City Council and school board members also got an update on the massive, $30 million Peabody Stadium project at Santa Barbara High School.

Only the visitor bleachers and historic ticket booth were kept intact, with the grandstand, track and field demolished to make way for the new, larger stadium project.

When it’s done, most likely in April 2019, there will be a 2,300-seat grandstand, a rubber track and an artificial turf field.

This year’s graduating class will walk across the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl because of the construction, but the Class of 2019 should do the Walk of the Dons at the renovated Peabody Stadium, according to district facilities director Dave Hetyonk.

In response to questions about the choice to install an artificial turf field instead of grass, Hetyonk cited the heavy use of the field among different sports as well as physical education classes.

San Marcos High School has an artificial turf field, and Dos Pueblos High School is getting one this summer, he added.

Noozhawk managing editor 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.

A meeting of the Santa Barbara school board and City Council. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Unified school board and City Council got an update Thursday on the district’s plan to purchase the armory property and turn it into an educational facility.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

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