Notable Commercial Sale

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   September 5, 2019
The Old Firehouse building in the Upper Village has sold to an unnamed investor for $13 million

In August, the Old Firehouse building at 1486 East Valley Road in Montecito was purchased by an unnamed investor with ties to the Santa Barbara area. The property was listed for $16 million, and closed for $13,000,000. Francois DeJohnKristopher Roth, and Caitlin McCahill Hensel of Hayes Commercial Group represented all parties in the transaction. 

The 6,357 square-foot office building prominently fronts East Valley Road in the heart of Montecito’s Upper Village. It is currently leased by Union Bank with approximately nine years of term remaining. The landmark building, built in 1931 and originally serving as the regional firehouse, was designed in classic Spanish Colonial Revival style by award-winning architect Alexander Bertrand Harmer.

“This is one of our area’s unique and historic commercial properties, which don’t change ownership often,” Roth said. “That fact, combined with the existing long-term lease with a credit tenant, enabled the property to command a very high price.”

Hayes Commercial Group has completed 22 commercial and investment sales valued at $167 million to date in 2019, including four of the top five South Coast sales by price.

“This is the latest in a series of high-value office property sales on the South Coast,” DeJohn said. “Office has been the dominant property type among commercial sales so far this year, with both investors and owner-users playing an active role.”

“Commercial property in Montecito very rarely changes hands, especially in the Upper Village,” Hensel added. “Which makes pricing a trophy asset like this an interesting challenge.

Lively Land Use Meeting

The Montecito Association Land Use Committee meeting on Tuesday, September 3, featured lengthy discussions about two controversial projects in our area: the roundabout at Olive Mill Road and the proposed helistop project at 2800 Via Real in Summerland/Carpinteria. 

County Deputy Director of Transportation Chris Sneddon gave a brief presentation about the roundabout slated for Olive Mill Road and Coast Village Road. The project includes reconfiguring the intersection from a stop-controlled, 5-way intersection to a single lane, 6-leg roundabout, and includes adding sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, and directional crosswalks. The project is slated to be built completely inside Caltrans, City, and County right-of-way, and includes safer pedestrian crossings and more lighting, Sneddon said. 

The standing-room-only audience voiced several concerns over the project, including the potential bottleneck that could occur as cars enter the roundabout from Coast Village Road. Several residents asked to add a second lane into the roundabout, which would allow cars to easily turn onto the southbound freeway on-ramp. Sneddon explained that the traffic conditions that were considered for the design of the roundabout are based upon the traffic situation after a southbound on-ramp is installed at Cabrillo Blvd. “When you look at this model, it assumes that the freeway onramp at Cabrillo is open,” he said, acknowledging that the southbound on-ramp re-opening is slated as the last phase of the freeway widening project. “It seems to me the answer is to have the southbound on-ramp at Cabrillo Blvd installed before this roundabout,” said LU member Sybil Rosen, who was met with applause. 

Other concerns include the safety of the roundabout for pedestrians and bicyclists, landscaping, and the proximity of the project to 110 Olive Mill, owned by Roger Rittner. The design team reported that they are aware of the concerns, and are looking into tweaking the design. “The whole goal of the process is balancing the engineering of the project with what the community wants to see,” said Walter Rubalcava, the Design Section Manager for the project. 

The roundabout will be back in front of the Santa Barbara City Architectural Board of Review and Montecito Board of Architectural Review in October. 

Over a dozen members of the audience spoke out against a proposed Conditional Use Permit from Pat Nesbitt, who is seeking a discretionary permit to land helicopters on his property in Carpinteria. Nesbitt, who was not at the Land Use Committee meeting, has admitted that he has been illegally landing helicopters on his property for 25 years, and is now asking forgiveness to legalize continued use, asking for a helistop with two landing zones to be used for personal use and emergency services. Both landing zones will be located on the eastern portion of the property; the first will be located on an existing 10-acre grass field and the second landing zone will be located on a concrete drive adjacent to an equipment storage building that is currently under construction under separate permits. 

According to the staff report, personal use of the helistop will be limited to a maximum of two times per week between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm, and helicopters will take the ocean route as opposed to the mountain route in order to avoid any potential disturbance to residences along the mountain route. Over 150 people in the community have submitted letters of opposition to the permit, most citing that landing helicopters on private property is not compatible with the neighborhood. Another 100+ residents voiced their disdain in a recent Montecito Association survey, citing neighborhood incompatibility. 

“It’s the kind of thing that is virtually impossible to ignore, and it’s truly invasive,” said LU member Peter van Duinwyk, adding that 208 helicopter trips per year will affect thousands of residents in Santa Barbara, Montecito, and Carpinteria. “This will help one individual, yet will affect thousands of individuals in our community,” he said. Emergency helicopters will be able to land regardless of the permitting, according to staff. The County staff report is recommending approval of the permit. 

The Land Use Committee voted to submit a letter to the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission challenging the permit, citing the inadequacy of the negative declaration as well as the incompatibility with the Montecito Community Plan; the full board of the MA will vote on the letter next week.

Because Nesbitt’s property is not in Montecito, the issue will be heard at the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission on September 25. 


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