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Ty Warner Donates Historic Goleta Gas Station on Hollister Avenue to City

Goleta will discuss transfer, future of the structure at a June 30 City Council meeting

Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves speaks outside of the Barnsdall-Rio Gas Station on Thursday, joined by councilmembers Tony Vallejo, Jim Farr, Mayor Paula Perotte and Ty Warner Manager Bill Medel. Medel announced that the company was donating the property and the structure to the City of Goleta.
Goleta City Councilmember Roger Aceves speaks outside of the Barnsdall-Rio Gas Station on Thursday, joined by councilmembers Tony Vallejo, Jim Farr, Mayor Paula Perotte and Ty Warner Manager Bill Medel. Medel announced that the company was donating the property and the structure to the City of Goleta. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

The iconic gas station that sits near Sandpiper Golf Course in western Goleta will be transferred from its private owner to the City of Goleta, a historic move for the monument which has been boarded off and shuttered to the public for decades.

The Barnsdall-Rio Grande Gas Station sits on the 7900 block of Hollister Avenue, and its colonial revival touches still shine even though its white plaster walls and blue and white tiles are in various states of disrepair.

The building was built in 1929 but abandoned in 1950, and is considered the last of the Pearl Chase-inspired fuel stations, a project that the legendary Santa Barbara civic leader took on as a beautification effort. 

On Thursday, officials from the City of Goleta and Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts gathered to announce that the property and structure would be donated to the city.

The property is part of the Sandpiper Golf Course, which is owned by mogul Ty Warner of Beanie Baby fame. Warner also owns the Coral Casino, the Four Seasons Biltmore and the Montecito Country Club, among other properties.

Though Warner himself was not at the press conference, employee Bill Medel came to talk about the donation.

Medel is in charge of project development and club memberships for Ty Warner Hotels and Resorts and said Warner felt it was best that the city take over the building and restore it.

Warner purchased the Sandpiper Golf Club in 2003, and in 2009, Goleta Councilman Roger Aceves (mayor at the time) and Medel began talking about the historic structure and its preservation. 

The company is working on other projects, such as the renovation of the Montecito Country Club, and felt like it was a good time to make the transfer, Medel said.

Earlier this year, Goleta resident Tom Modugno started an online petition to restore the station to its former glory. The petition gathered signatures at a rapid pace, and Goleta's Mayor Paula Perotte thanked Modugno for his effort.

Modugno said he was very happy about the decision and applauded Warner and Goleta city officials for the move.

He also said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the next step, adding that it will not be cheap to restore the building.

"That's the next step and right now I just want to celebrate this not-so-little victory," he told Noozhawk.

The next step will be to assess the land and the structure to determine next steps, Aceves said. 

"Whatever the next chapter is, (the building) will be well-honored… It's a very proud moment for our young city."

Aceves remarked that he didn't think the building had gotten a paint job since 1980, when it was spiffed up and used in the remake of the movie The Postman Always Rings Twice, which starred Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange.

People always want to know what about the building's future, he said, adding that restoring the building will be an "incredible accomplishment."

Perotte told Noozhawk that the building "needs some love" and that the city may conduct a public outreach effort, similar to what Modugno did, to figure out what people would like to see at the site.

Perotte said she's driven by the building many times during her 29 years living in Goleta and often saw painters set up with easels nearby to paint and draw the historic structure.

"It's a beautiful building," she said.

Santa Barbara County designated the station a historical site, but after the City of Goleta incorporated, that designation was no longer in place, though the city's general plan does list the gas station as a historic resource.

Perotte said that the city's historic landmark ordinance will also have to be firmed up to protect the building's designation in the future and the council will likely talk about that at their public meeting on June 30.

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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