In the 24 years since the Camino Real Marketplace began unspooling big box stores beneath the 737s taking off from the Santa Barbara Airport, its 83 acres have been completely developed except for 1.9 acres at the corner of Santa Felicia Drive and Storke Road. The last time developer Wynmark approached the Goleta City Council for a project at the spot, CEO Mark Linehan stormed out of the meeting after the council said no, refusing to consider the needed General Plan amendment. Linehan had proposed a gas station in 2017, but the council was concerned that it could theoretically lead to auto wrecking or auto painting at the site.
“That might have been a blessing in disguise,” Wynmark’s Kim Schizas said on Tuesday, while describing to the council the events leading up to a new request to abandon the Specific Plan in place for the parcel and potentially allow medical offices instead.
“In 2017, we thought the best use would have been a gas station and a car wash,” she explained. “As we’ve watched the community grow over these last years with a lot of new residences, and we’ve seen what happens in our world, we feel that now the best use for this site, the one that will serve the community the best and fills the greatest needs, is some medical office buildings.” Schizas went on to say it would alleviate the need for residents in western Goleta to have to travel to Patterson or to downtown Santa Barbara to see their doctors and therapists.
In a phone call after the meeting, Schizas explained it could take a year or so to get the project going and back before the city, and it’s much too far off to even think of what specific tenants might come. On Tuesday night, as Councilmember Kyle Richards made clear, Wynmark was not asking for permission to build medical offices but for a change in the land-use plan.
Under the Specific Plan developed with the county, which controlled the area before the city formed, the parcel could hold recreation or childcare or a transit facility. A switch to Goleta’s current zoning and General Plan would exclude a use like a golf course or transit terminal — and service or gas station for that matter — but allow many others under a Community Commercial designation, including health-related services, car washing, a hotel or motel, and a day care facility.
But, as planner Lisa Prasse explained, ultimately, the City Council would approve any such land-use amendment, and at that time, the developer would submit the building’s intended use. Mayor Paula Perotte, who with Councilmembers Kyle Richards and Stuart Kasdin had voted against the gas station idea previously, noted that the new concept would help clean up the area, which she called “a bit of an eyesore.” With that, the council agreed unanimously to allow Wynmark to start the application process to remove the parcel from the Marketplace’s Specific Plan and place it under General Plan guidance.