A local leader in the regional climate movement has announced plans to grow its operations and relocate to a larger space located at 1219 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara. The Community Environmental Council (CEC) will expand its footprint in all the right ways when it takes up residence in the prominent storefront space formerly occupied by the Unity Shoppe across from The Granada Theatre.
While just around the corner from the CEC’s previous home at 26 W. Anapamu St., it’s a notable move for the homegrown nonprofit as it takes on roughly 8,000 more square feet to better suit an array of new programs and ramp up its engagement with the community.
At a time when the downtown commercial corridor centered on State Street has had to battle challenges with changing retail trends and the pandemic, the CEC is providing a much needed breath of fresh air to the area.
And this downtown reinvigoration doesn’t stop with the CEC. Westmont College will soon open a satellite campus at the CEC’s old space on Anapamu, which they recently purchased from the CEC’s landlord, the Hutton Parker Foundation. The Hutton Parker Foundation is well known in the community for its funding programs and direct assistance to community-based nonprofit organizations throughout Santa Barbara County as a part of its mission to foster financial stability and organizational sustainability in these agencies.
“We were already in talks with Tom Parker about a location change when the time was right,” said CEC CEO Sigrid Wright, in reference to Parker, president of the Hutton Parker Foundation. “With our staff and programming expanding, we would have soon outgrown our space and we knew we wanted to eventually move to a more visible location, like State Street. The timing of the sale to Westmont presented the perfect opportunity to do that.”
Due to the pandemic, the CEC is operating almost completely remotely at the moment, “but we can’t pause our efforts as we seek to advance rapid and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Eventually we will need this space to build regional capacity and expand our outreach to the community,” added Wright.
The CEC is developing three new programs to more closely engage adults and youth in the climate movement: a Climate Leadership Program, a Climate Justice Program and a Climate Resilience Program.
“After the pandemic these programs will rely on large gatherings and in-person events that will need adequate meeting and training spaces,” said Wright. “At that time, this new location will allow us to connect more deeply with the community through training rooms and facilities and a new webinar studio.” The CEC is also speaking with an architect about building micro workspaces throughout the facility so that people can work outside or socially-distanced during COVID-19 when the region moves out of the purple tier.
Wright says that while the CEC’s future programming may take on “hybrid” formats and maintain some digital aspects that were developed as a result of the pandemic — including it’s a webinar series, virtual roundtable sessions and real-time translated bilingual events — they are moving ahead in planning for when they will be able to convene in person and are expecting as much as a 50 percent increase in staff in the next few years.
“We hope to be an anchor of environmental stewardship and leadership through community-centered events, such as participating in Santa Barbara’s First Thursdays or hosting film screenings. This block of State Street, which has traditionally been part of a food corridor, will allow for opportunities to promote sustainable and local food systems. And since this particular building had already been utilized by previous nonprofits, it felt right to us. We envision this to become more than just an office space. Instead, we hope to create a community space that showcases the positive opportunities and vibrancy of environmentalism in Santa Barbara,” said Wright.
“We feel like we landed in exactly the right place at the right time, and we couldn’t have done it without the stellar collaboration of Paul Gamberdella and the entire Radius team and Tom at the Hutton Parker Foundation.”
Wright says there’s room for even more collaboration as the new location has more space than the CEC will initially need, so there is potential to sublet some of it and bring in an organization that shares in their community values.