National Guard Armory
Paul Wellman (file)

With the price set at $11.6 million, Santa Barbara Unified School District is a few weeks away from signing escrow paperwork and wiring a $580,000 down payment to purchase the California National Guard’s downtown armory, a 27,000-square-foot landmark building on 4.7 acres.

Details of the agreement struck between the district and the State of California, which has owned the property since the 1930s, will be discussed on October 9 at the Board of Education meeting, with a vote expected on October 23. If approved, the purchase will culminate decades of off-and-on effort by the district to acquire the property.

District leaders past and present have cited years of unsuccessful back-and-forth discussions with the state. However, in 2016, as the state moved to put the armory — and a handful of similar properties across the state — on the open market, then-Assemblymember Das Williams introduced legislation that essentially gave the district the right of first refusal. The district exercised that option early last year.

Since then, the district has appraised the property at $12.35 million. But with follow-up due diligence on the condition of the property and associated renovation costs, for example, to retrofit a landmark building that would be filled with students, district leaders had hoped the state would drop its price, according to sources familiar with the matter.

A draft purchase agreement released by the district this afternoon indicates that the land and buildings are being sold as-is, “with all faults, and there is no warranty, expressed or implied, regarding the condition of the property.”

Specifically, a staff report points to “the continuing presence of lead dust stemming from an indoor firing range, seismic issues relating to current structural code requirements, and potential soil liquefaction.” The report also states, “Because the enabling legislation bases the purchase price on the state’s appraisal, without allowance for negotiations, the final purchase price is firmly fixed at $11.6 million.”

Approved by voters in 2016, the $135 million Measure I facilities bond earmarked $20 million for the purchase and renovation of 730 East Canon Perdido Street property, which occupies the entire city block between Santa Barbara Junior High School and Santa Barbara High School.


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