A foe has arisen to fight the renovation and expansion of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and, if family history means anything, he might prove to be a formidable one-man force.
J.J. Hollister III — whose last name graces Goleta’s main thoroughfare and the private coastal enclave of Hollister Ranch, among other nods to his family’s generations of South Coast legacy — came out against the plan this week in anticipation of Tuesday’s hearing on the matter before the Santa Barbara City Council, which is the lead agency processing the museum’s desire to expand by nearly 60,000 square feet. The hearing was specifically to address whether the city would designate the museum’s plan as a community priority and part of the nonresidential economic development square footage allowed under city rules; currently, about 540,000 square feet are up for grabs.
The council voted unanimously to do so, but not before Hollister — whose testimony was somewhat scattered and confusing — was able to call into question both the size of the project and the city’s process. He may be the first citizen to publicly oppose the plan, as the museum’s outreach campaign has so far managed to assuage most concerns, although Mayor Helene Schneider — who also promised Hollister that there would be “many, many hearings” in the future on this matter — did mention that some neighbors have been in contact with her about the issue as well. Hollister believes that more will come to see it his way as the project moves forward.
As for the City Council itself, the early vote of support came with some forewarning from Councilmembers Bendy White and Dale Francisco. “That big number spooks me a little bit,” said White, noting it was odd to propose such a growth without increasing visitors. Francisco echoed his concern, but reminded all that this was a very early step in a long process.