Waiting Out Granada

I enjoyed your cover article this week about architect Barton Myers’s unique steel and glass house in upper Toro Canyon [“The Fires Next Time,” 7/8/10]. In reading D.J. Palladino’s article, and Myers’s quoted comments in it, I could not help reflecting, too, on what Santa Barbara has done recently to meet its acknowledged need for a world-class performing arts center. Myers is currently known as one of the world’s leading figures in designs for performing arts centers.

With the City of Santa Barbara, as well as generous donors, having spent somewhere around $60 million now to upgrade the Granada, and build a garage that theater patrons must approach late after an evening concert through an unadorned dark alleyway, one has to ask where all of that money actually went.

Certainly, the new/old Granada is an improvement over what we had to work with before (and at that price, one would certainly hope so), but we are still now left for the next generation with an old theater that has inadequate first-floor facilities for visitors, okay but not great acoustics, a narrow lobby teeming uncomfortably with patrons at performance breaks, a limited stage with effectively no backstage space, etc. All of which was predictable well in advance of this reconstruction attempt and subsequently ignored in order to “preserve” a traditional venue.

One just has to wonder what might have been accomplished in a cultural oasis like Santa Barbara, a town that is located within easy driving distance also of a great metro area which is itself one of the world’s leading talent capitals and an attraction for visitors worldwide, by just having started from scratch. We will probably have to wait for another generation now to find out.—Richard J. Steckel, S.B.

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