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Major Upgrades in the Works for Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

Museum officials plan to go before the city's Planning Commission to seek an amendment to the conditional use permit and a parking modification

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History wants to create a new butterfly garden, renovate the Marine, Paleo and Chumash halls, and make other changes designed to enhance the museum experience.

The museum would also like to develop an enhanced bioswale with a boardwalk and overlook, and restore the woodland area by replacing non-native plants with native ones.

Museum officials plan to go before the city's Planning Commission on Thursday to seek an amendment to the museum's conditional use permit and a parking modification to provide less than the required number of on-site parking spaces. Ultimately, museum officials would like to have the City of Santa Barbara annex five parcels of land around the museum site from the county into the city. 

The City of Santa Barbara and the Local Agency Formation Commission would need to approve the annexation. The City Council also would need to approve an amendment to its general plan.

"We want to better connect people to science and nature inside our halls and out," said Easter Moorman, spokeswoman for the museum. "We want to be good stewards of our site."

Founded in 1916 as the Museum of Comparative Oology, it adopted its current name in 1922. 

Plans also call for the conversion of office space into a new "science on site" gallery so that visitors can experience real-time science at the museum. The existing creekside office will be transformed into a Nature Observatory. 

The museum will also "refresh" the bird habitat with Ray Strong dioramas as showpieces. In addition to habitat restoration and expanded passive public use, the museum also plans wide improvements to its landscaping. Crews will also install new air conditioning and build new restrooms in the Fleischmann Auditorium.

The project includes a proposed new sidewalk along the south side of Puesta del Sol.

Work would begin in 2016, and the museum would remain open along the way. The changes are envisioned as part of the museum's Master Plan over the next 10 to 15 years. 

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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