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Santa Barbara Cancer Center Wants To Add Learning Center Auditorium To Project

Planning Commission backs changes to the cancer treatment facility and mixed-use project near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Planning Commissioners backed changes to the Cancer Center’s approved project Thursday but Santa Barbara’s community development director will determine whether the revised project has to go through the review process again.
Planning Commissioners backed changes to the Cancer Center’s approved project Thursday but Santa Barbara’s community development director will determine whether the revised project has to go through the review process again.  (Santa Barbara Cancer Center photo)

The Santa Barbara Planning Commission on Thursday gave a sweeping endorsement to proposed changes to architect Brian Cearnal's Cancer Center project near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The seven-member panel approved the project in 2010, but Cearnal returned to ask for some changes to the project.

The original approved plan consists of a comprehensive cancer treatment facility at 540 West Pueblo St., a four-level parking structure, two commercial medical office buildings and six rental housing units at 525 and 529 West Junipero Street.

Most of the changes were technical. Cearnal wants to flip the residential and commercial buildings so that the rental housing units at 525 West Junipero St. are next to the recently-vacated Breast Cancer Resource Center, which is already zoned for residential use. 

The Planning Commission raised more questions about the other change at the commercial site, 529 West Junipero St. The Cancer Center wants to build a Learning Center for Cancer Center and Sansum Clinic staff.

The Learning Center would be a 2,343 square-foot, one-story building with a 110-seat auditorium, a 237-square-foot conference room, restrooms, audiovisual room and lobby.

Commissioners asked about the type of activities hosted at the Learning Center and whether it would be open to non-medical staff.

“I can’t imagine anything more important, a physical center where we bring the ongoing, state -of-the-art medical, scientific information to those who are directly facing cancer and their families,”​ Planning Commissioner Deborah Schwartz said. 

Schwartz said she could envision the auditorium serving other community needs.

“Other than the Cottage Hospital auditorium, I don't believe we have anything else like this in our neighborhood so I can see this becoming a popular facility for cancer-related and non-related activities,” Schwartz said. 

Cearnal, at the prodding of Assistant City Attorney Scott Vincent, tried to explain the big picture for the Learning Center, but didn’t yet have a lot of specifics.

“I don’t think there has been a huge amount of thought about exactly how this is going to be managed,” Cearnal said. “Certainly Cottage is in the mix here.”

He said he could foresee doctors and medical staff walking to the Learning Center for activities during the day.

Physician John Denver, who owns a building next to proposed project, spoke against the project due to traffic concerns. 

“It will generate a distinct increase in traffic,” he said.

“I would hope there would be some way to minimize the traffic in front of my building.”

Commissioners praised the changes to the project. 

“This is an appropriate change,” Planning Commissioner Mike Jordan said.

“This project ... reflects a growing need in the medical community to have a facility like this.”

Planning Commissioner Sheila Lodge said the revised project is better than the originally-approved version.

“Instead of a medical office building you are going to have a building available to the entire medical community,” she said.

The city’s community development director will decide whether the project conforms with what was originally approved or whether it needs to go through the planning approval process again.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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