It’s more common to see kids playing volleyball than National Guard units training at the Santa Barbara Armory these days, and the local school district wants to buy the property and transform it into an educational center.
The idea has percolated for years, but the National Guard wasn’t allowed to sell the land — only trade it — until last year, when state legislation gave the approval to sell seven California armory sites including Santa Barbara.
It also gave cities and school districts first dibs on the properties for educational, recreational or another community uses before being listed on the open market.
However, local officials missed the memo, and the deadline for that first right of refusal is coming up fast — in July.
The Santa Barbara Unified School District is excited about the possibility, and if the bill passes, it plans to list the property on its facilities priorities list for a potential bond measure this November, according to Superintendent Dave Cash.
The district and the city don’t know the assessed fair market value for the property but plan to do an assessment this summer, Cash said.
The property includes 4.7 acres and a 27,000-square-foot building that was designated a city landmark in 1998.
“We have always had the vision of creating a career technical education center that would provide K-14 students — we’d hope to partner with SBCC — the opportunity to explore new 21st century careers,” Cash wrote in an email.
“As a result of receiving one of the CDE CTE (California Department of Education career technical education) grants, we are currently involved in a planning process on what career pathways we will be supporting, expanding, creating in our schools for the next several years.”
The potential purchase and development of the site was added to the draft capital campaign priorities list, estimated at $20 million total, which will be presented to the Board of Education Tuesday night.
Cash, Santa Barbara City Administrator Paul Casey and Mayor Helene Schneider recently went to Sacramento for hearings on the bill, where it was passed by two committees.
“There’s no opposition so it’s really very exciting to be part of something that the community has been talking about for two decades,” Schneider said.
It’s an underutilized property, mostly used for some trainings and a private agreement with the Santa Barbara Volleyball Club, she said. The city doesn’t have access to the property.
“The California Military Department has approximately 100 active armory sites throughout the state and sought authorization to sell the specified armories after determining that the costs of maintaining them outweighed their utility,” the AB 2247 analysis says.
The plan to acquire the property for community uses has always been a team effort between the city and school district, according to Casey. The city doesn’t have the cash to buy the property and doesn’t intend to, he noted.
There hasn’t been an official appraisal, but Schneider said a rough estimate from several years ago was in the $6 million range.
Santa Barbara actually gifted the land to the National Guard 80 years ago for $1, she said.
“So we sort of floated it out there, they could gift it back,” Schneider said.