YMCA Project Moves Forward – Finally

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   July 15, 2021

After nearly 13 years in the making, plans for expanding and remodeling the Montecito YMCA are once again moving forward, with the YMCA’s project application expected to be submitted to Santa Barbara County by the end of the month.

“We’re still here, and the project is still happening,” said YMCA executive director Mike Yamasaki, who spoke with us earlier this week before a short presentation at the Montecito Association’s Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting. 

Reps from the Y set out to renovate and enhance the community facility on Santa Rosa Lane many, many years ago, and submitted an extensive expansion plan to the County in 2013. That former plan required that overflow parking be available off-site at Lower Manning Park, but the Y was unable to secure a long-term parking agreement with the County Parks Commission, and instead sought to revise the plans so that all parking could be on the 4.25-acre site. 

After multiple iterations, revisions, and countless community meetings with concerned neighbors, a new conceptual design was developed in 2018. The new plan, called the Revised Master Plan, included a change in architectural style and a significant reduction in programing, including eliminating the YMCA’s preschool program. The plans also include a remodeled and slightly expanded main building, which does not include a second story as originally planned. That building will house weight training, cardio, offices, childcare, group fitness, and a flex/meeting room; the group fitness area has been relocated to be further away from the perimeter, in order to assuage neighbor concerns about noise. 

A new locker room building will be nearly the same size as the current locker rooms, and will include family changing rooms. The new multi-purpose building will be 9,100 square feet and is slated to be tucked in the northwest corner of the site. It will serve as a place for basketball, volleyball, and adult wellness classes. The original iteration of that building was to be located on the current sports court and included roll up doors for an indoor/outdoor feel. In the current plans the roll-up doors were eliminated due to noise concerns, and the current sports court area will be used for a secondary parking lot. The pool will be revamped and widened, and the entire new plan is reduced in size by 29% from earlier versions and is approximately 10,000 square feet larger than the current buildings.

The new, less intrusive plans have lessened the parking requirement to 96 spaces. The second parking lot, which was originally going to be used for staff only, has now been expanded to offer 44 spaces; it is accessed off San Ysidro Road and will only allow a right turn in and a right turn out. The main parking lot will house about 56 spaces, and any overflow will still go to Lower Manning Park, where there is an ongoing short-term lease agreement that is re-upped every six months. 

DesignARC architect Mark Kirkhart revised the formerly modern industrial style buildings to have more of a rustic, modern farmhouse feel. The buildings have board and batten siding as well as stone façade. The project will be heavily landscaped on the San Ysidro side, to buffer the facility from the street. 

The plans have been put on hold multiple times to accommodate minor damage from ash from the Thomas Fire in December 2017, as well as closures following the January 9 Debris Flow in 2018 and additional closures and programming changes caused by the COVID pandemic in 2020 until last month.

“We’ve been working on the project throughout the pandemic, but things have been slow going,” Yamasaki told us.

The YMCA has reopened fully but continues to hold classes outdoors. Membership is down about 40%, Yamasaki said. 

Brian Banks is a local land use consultant on the project and told the Land Use and Transportation Committee that the project would be built in phases after garnering the necessary approvals at the county level. The first phase will include the new multipurpose building and additional parking lot; the remodel and additions to the main building will comprise the second phase; and the third phase will include the complete removal and remodel of the locker rooms and the refresh of the swimming pool and wet area. 

Banks reported that the team is working through a few more details, including working with the Montecito Sanitary District to receive an intent to serve letter, before completing the County’s application. The project will then undergo environmental and CEQA review, as well as oversight by staff before being heard by MBAR and MPC. 

The YMCA is located at 591 Santa Rosa Lane. 


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