A Noozhawk reader emailed to ask: When will the Goleta Valley Community Center reopen?
Most of the Goleta Valley Community Center will reopen for community use in mid-July after 15 months of pandemic-related closures, said city Community Relations Assistant Jaime Shaw.
Built in 1927, the center is owned by the city of Goleta and operated by the nonprofit Goleta Valley Community Center.
The important gathering place and venue for community programs has been closed to the public since March 2020 because of COVID-19-related restrictions.
There has been a free novel coronavirus testing site for months at the community center, at 5679 Hollister Ave., and the Public Health Department recently started holding vaccination clinics there.
When the center reopens, the auditorium and dining room will remain closed to the public in order to work on seismic and accessibility improvements, according to Shaw.
“In an abundance of caution, the auditorium and main dining room areas were closed in January following an inspection and review of existing building-condition reports by the city’s building official in preparation for the improvements project,” Shaw said in a statement responding to Noozhawk’s questions.
“Based on this analysis and the consensus of the city’s professional staff, the determination has been made that until seismic repairs are completed, these two rooms should not be open to the public.”
The closure of the auditorium and main dining room does not affect the other rooms at the GVCC, including the buildings occupied by the Rainbow School, CommUnify and the state-operated COVID-19 testing on the west side of the main building.
“The GVCC has announced that it tentatively plans to reopen the rest of the building in mid-July,” Shaw said. “At that point, other rooms at the Community Center will be available for booking and for existing programs to resume, such as the GVCC senior program.”
Over the last year, Shaw said, center staff have taken time to improve and refresh many of the classrooms and gathering spaces.
Staff received permission to continue daily maintenance both inside and outside at the community center, so things wouldn’t fall apart during the pandemic-related closure and stay-at-home orders in California, according to Acting General Manager Charlie Johnson.
“The good news is they were able to tackle most of the projects that were on hold as differed-maintenance projects, so the rooms have been freshened up, including new paint, some new window blinds, some new furniture, and new hallway lighting,” Johnson told Noozhawk in an email.
There is new landscaping, drip irrigation and fencing, he added.
The pickleball courts have also been updated with new entry gates, nets and interior court fences, plus windscreens.
To mitigate the closure of the auditorium and main dining room, city staff are working with the center staff to evaluate other ideas for providing additional space for community programs, Shaw said.
Goleta is pursuing more than $8 million in grant funding to pay for seismic and accessibility improvements at the center, to bring the building to current standards, according to Shaw.
The city received a Federal Emergency Management Association grant to design the seismic repairs and qualifies for additional FEMA funding for construction, Shaw said.
Additionally, the city has set aside about $294,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the accessibility improvements.
“Even once funding is secure, the project is likely to take several years to complete,” Shaw said. “While we know this may be disappointing to many of our community members, our top priority is the safety of GVCC users.”
The future of the community center will be considered at the Goleta City Council meeting on Aug 17.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.