Lead contamination at the California National Guard Armory will be cleaned up by the state if and when the facility is sold to Santa Barbara Unified School District, according to the California Military Department (CMD). While the majority of the contamination is in the armory’s long-inactive indoor firing range, located in the basement of one of the buildings near the main gate on East Canon Perdido, additional research funded by the school district also found lead dust on the ground floor of the same building, directly above the firing range, according to attorney Craig Price, representing the district.
“Last fall, the district began a thorough investigation of the site, covering all the possible issues that might affect [the value of the property],” Price said. In addition to lead contamination, an environmental consultant found a “potentially low-level benzene issue,” with more conclusive test results due this week, Price added. Also, “there’s no indication” that chemicals from a dry-cleaning service once located across the street had spread to the armory parcel.
More due diligence by the school district brought structural engineers to the 30,000-square-foot historic building in February; initial inspections indicated that the armory’s cathedral-like gymnasium would need substantial reinforcement to comply with state earthquake code. An appraisal contracted by the district is ongoing, said Price. According to CMD, the state’s Department of General Services began its own appraisal in early February, to be completed by the end of April. A state-funded appraisal dated July 10, 2007 — before the burst of the real estate bubble — determined the property’s market value as $15,355,000. However, by September 2012 — in the throes of the Great Recession — the estimated value had dropped to roughly $6 million, according to a document signed by former Santa Barbara city administrator James Armstrong.
A bond measure approved by city voters in November earmarks $10 million for the purchase of the property and another $10 million toward renovations. School district Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said his goal is to be in escrow by summer.