The third time may not be the proverbial charm for the three-story medical clinic proposed for the city’s Westside, but for members of the Architectural Board of Review (ABR), it proved good enough. They referred the project, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics (SBNC), onto the Planning Commission, where it awaits all but certain approval. Though members voiced many of the same concerns about the size and mass of the proposed building, slated for 621 West Micheltorena Street, even the most critical members acknowledged the design had been softened to fit into the otherwise low-slung neighborhood epi-centered at Micheltorena and San Andres streets.
The current plan is to scrap a two-story office building on the site now — which features vintage ’70s architecture — and replace it with a $12 million facility two-and-a-half times as big and one story higher. The new offices will allow the SBNC to move out of the old, wooden house across Micheltorena Street, where it’s operated for 50 years. The new quarters, as proposed, will allow the clinic to provide medical, mental, and dental services all in one building to some of the poorest and most densely populated neighborhoods in Santa Barbara. One board member explained his concerns as, “I think it’s a very handsome project, but people will have to get used to the scale of it.” Architect Brian Cearnel told the board that he had wanted to design something “humble and simple,” to which board member Dennis Whelan countered that some of the new building will be “extremely brutal and harsh to the humble neighbors next door.”