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David Lack

Martha Sadler

David Lack


Developer Won’t Give Up Transit Center Dream

Unchosen by City, CEO Lack Appeals to Rotarians


Lack Construction CEO David Lack unveiled his revised grand vision for transforming the Metropolitan Transit District’s center at a Santa Barbara Rotary Club luncheon on February 15. His new vision is scaled down from 60 feet to 45 feet in height, and now sports a more muted fa┬žade, that blends with the Hotel Andalucia close by on Carrillo Street. But Lack has not given up on his dream of a snazzy center that will attract the middle-class to transit use.

For example, a rainwater-fed roof garden will help supply an organic food court, and runoff from the garden will flush toilets on the second story, which will also host restaurants and art gallieres. The city is asking for underground parking, a childcare center, and a mix of commercial and residential units. Lack proposes a walk-in urgent-care medical clinic as well, and told the Rotarians he is offering to donate space for a police substation primarily for bike patrols, but with a police cruiser parked outside at all times to lend a sense of security. He talked about getting rid of the diesel buses in favor of fume-free hydroelectric buses “that sound like sewing machines,” and about a “smart card” system that bills people for their rides so they don’t have to pay cash. “I’m thinking about this thing working for 20,000 to 50,000 people,” Lack said.

If all goes according to Lack’s vision the new transit center will also meet the highest possible standards of sustainability-a Platinum LEED rating. Not one single Platinum LEED building has yet been constructed downtown, Lack told the Rotarians; and as far as he knows a mixed-use project of his on Bradbury Street is the only one in the works.

The only hitch in Lack’s plans is that he is not even in the running to develop the transit center, which is to be a public/private partnership with almost $4 million in state and municipal funding available. Lack responded to the city’s Request for Qualifications, but wasn’t among the three finalists selected in January by the city. This, said Lack, despite the fact that he is LEEDS certified; that he is currently building a transit center in Thousand Oaks, and that he was the only applicant with a proven commitment to this community. Lack’s local projects over the past 20 years include the redesign of the Santa Barbara Superior Court, Figueroa Division. The conservative Republican activist quipped that despite his offers of drinks and dinner, he could not get anybody at City Hall or MTD to even talk to him. “I can get the governor to call me back before I can get the Metropolitan Transit District to call me back,” Lack said.

At the Rotary luncheon, Lack even offered to purchase the 1.8 acres now occupied by the MTD transit center and parking lot. “I’ll write a check today,” Lack said. “I’ll buy it and build it.” That is how the great landmarks get built, he later added. “When someone wants to give to the community, just take it.”

In fact, Lack and his staff did manage to lure MTD community relations manager David Damian and city administrator Jim Armstrong to attend the luncheon, but when the Rotarians demanded an explanation, both officials declined. City Redevelopment Agency officials overseeing the transit center project will be available on Tuesday for information on the firms that qualified to submit proposals.

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