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Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Revitalization Plan Gains Backing for Phase 1

Historic Landmarks Commission votes to send project proposal to next step on road to final approval

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, at 2559 Puesta Del Sol, received good news from the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission, which was reviewing the museum’s revitalization and renovation plans. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, at 2559 Puesta Del Sol, received good news from the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission, which was reviewing the museum’s revitalization and renovation plans. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has received the green light to submit the Mission Canyon site’s revitalization and renovation plans for final approval.

Nearly seven years after the nonprofit museum met with the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, the board on Wednesday voted 5-1 in favor of the proposal.

Commissioner Michael Drury cast the dissenting vote, and three commissioners were absent.

The applicant was advised to return to public works for final approval of the first phase of plans for the museum at 2559 Puesta Del Sol.

Phase One includes replacing the Butterfly Pavilion, pedestrian access along the stegosaurus wall at the front of the museum, improvements to bring the museum into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a trash and recycle enclosure, new fencing, bioswale and native habitat restoration, landscaping, lighting, mechanical equipment replacement and interior repairs to existing buildings.

“This is a huge milestone,” said Suzanne Elledge, who represents the museum. “This is the last component that will come before the commission for Phase One of the master plan.”

Elledge said she first met with the commission in 2009, and returned this time with construction drawings.

A handful of community members submitted letters both supporting and opposing the museum plans.

One former Mission Canyon resident wrote that he had “great opposition to the proposal of widening” the area.

Other letters expressed concern about children and pedestrian safety near the roadway.

One woman said the location, along Mission Creek behind the Santa Barbara Mission and across from Rocky Nook Park, is a “gem in the neighborhood.”

Elledge said museum representatives have listened to the public’s suggestions.

“The design before the commission met a lot of the concerns,” she said. “We continued to show sensitivity to this neighborhood and the front of this historic resource. Several important ideas have come out of the public review process and the coordination with the neighborhood.”

Elledge said residents have disagreed with plant selection or “ideas they (the museum) can’t change,” such as lighting pole fixture standards.

“Or we just respectfully disagree, like with the choice of agave plants,” she said. “Those are minor sticking points.”

Commissioner Judy Orias pushed for low-level and native planting, a guaranteed protection of oak and sycamore trees on the campus, as well as staff to “investigate” the intensity of outside lighting.

“I think you’ve come a long way and I can support it, but I would like the ensure those items are carried out,” she said.

The commission’s decision was the final agenda item, following a more than four-hour hearing.

The project was last reviewed in early October.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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