After seven years of stubborn silence and relative inactivity, the Bellosguardo Foundation appears to be taking its first baby steps toward opening the late Huguette Clark’s palatial estate to the public.
The Foundation formed in 2014 and officially took possession of the property in 2017, but besides hosting a Great Gatsby–themed fundraising gala and a handful of private tours, it has not made any real progress in transforming the historic 27-room mansion and its 23 acres of manicured grounds into a modern community center to promote the arts, as Clark, an avid art collector herself, dictated in her will.
Foundation president Jeremy Lindaman submitted an application to the City of Santa Barbara’s Planning Division this March stating the organization would like to start offering small guided tours and holding special events. In order to install the necessary access ramps, portable restroom trailers, and roughly 90 parking spaces, Lindaman is seeking conditional-use and coastal-development permits from the city.
While planning staff said they were in “general support” of the proposal, according to their written response to Lindaman, they took issue with the lack of detail in his application and deemed it “incomplete.” How many guests would be on each tour, they asked? How frequently would tours be conducted? During what hours of the day? Would a shuttle service be offered for those who park offsite? How many docents would be employed? Would any of them live on the grounds? How often would events be held, and how many people would attend? Etcetera. “You have not directly answered any of our questions,” staff said.
Even basic information about the ramps and restrooms was omitted, staff noted. “The project plans would benefit by being better organized, especially in regard to the location of the proposed ramps and restrooms,” they said. “It is unclear how many ramps are proposed and where they would be located.”
Lindaman ― who, according to the Foundation’s latest tax records, collects a $120,000 salary ― was given the opportunity to amend and resubmit his application. It’s not clear if or when he plans to do so. In a previous hearing before the Historic Landmarks Commission, Lindaman briefly discussed other vague ideas for Bellosguardo, including “potentially adding structures.”
Since his appointment, Lindaman has more than once promised to hold “press events” to publicly outline the nonprofit’s long term strategic plans for its $85 million in assets, including capital campaigns and potential partnerships with arts organizations. So far, none of those events have materialized, and Lindaman has declined repeated requests for interviews.