Elevator improvement team, from left: Greg Chanis, County General Services; Barry Stotts, Community Access Network; Victor Shur, Access Advocate; and Robert Ooley, AIA, County Architect

The panoramic views — enjoyed by an estimated 200,000 people per year — from atop the Santa Barbara County Courthouse will be put on hold for seven months starting in January, when the observation deck closes so that the elevator can be reconstructed to reach the top landing. Currently, the elevator stops twelve-steps shy of the landing, making the 360-degree views out of reach of people with disabilities.

At their meeting on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved the reconstruction of the elevator, which is original to the courthouse. The closure will start in January and likely last through July. Courthouse tours will continue as usual during construction. (Down in the mural room, conservation work will make that room unavailable for events from January through May of next year.) Money for the revamp is coming from a combination of federal dollars and bond money for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance work.

View from the top of the courthouse tower.

Barry Stotts of the Community Access Network praised the pending changes. “Historic structures are often the last frontier of ADA accessibility, yet they comprise the most impressive architectural experiences and views,” he said. “We’re very pleased that the county continues to improve access for residents and visitors. When this project is complete, everyone will be able to enjoy a bird’s eye view of this beautiful community.”

Docent Council president Dana Machalleck echoed Stotts’s sentiments: “As docents, it is disheartening when we have to inform visitors with mobility challenges that the elevator doesn’t make it to the observation level of the tower. With these improvements, that will happily be a thing of the past.”


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