Funk Zone Development Gets Final Green Light

Developer Ray Mahboob to Revamp Industrial Warehouse in Trendy Santa Barbara Neighborhood

Developer Ray Mahboob | Credit: Nick Welsh

The Architectural Board of Review (ABR) gave developer Ray Mahboob what appears to have been final approval with only a few minor tweaks for a major 12,000-square-foot facelift, reconstruction, and reinvention of an industrial warehouse that runs from Helena Avenue to Anapamu streets in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone neighborhood. 

Members of the ABR were more concerned with the color and location of the light stands, street trees, and landscape schemes than with the issues raised by handicap access advocate Will Rehling, who has appealed the development now to both the Santa Barbara City Council and the Coastal Commission with no success. The Coastal Commission rejected the appeal earlier this year, saying Rehling raised no substantial issues, prompting Rehling to withdraw his appeal. Late last year, the City Council unanimously approved Mahboob’s proposal over Rehling’s objection, as had the Planning Commission earlier. 

Rehling has objected that the handicap access Mahboob is offering into the project is not acceptable, as it offers access only from the Anacapa Street entrance but not the Helena Avenue entrance. The Helena Avenue facade of the property — built in 1950 as a Sears delivery warehouse, and after that serving as an industrial seafood facility operated by the Castagnola family — has evolved over the years into the architectural equivalent of a folk-art piece. Mahboob’s commitment to maintain that facade was a key reason his project — which, among other things, will offer trendy new restaurants selling craft beers and artisanal sausages — garnered such uncharacteristically unanimous support from the council and Planning Commission. 

At last week’s ABR hearing on the project, County Supervisor Das Williams — who attended grade school with Mahboob — took time out of his busy campaign schedule to testify in favor of the project. Williams said Mahboob was preserving “the true Funk Zone feel, not the facade of one.”

Whether the ABR’s final approval is enough to settle the issue remains to be seen. Rehling objected that some of the changes made to the Helena Avenue facade over the years — the steps and one doorway, for example — were done without benefit of city permits. 

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