For the first half of its life, Santa Barbara City College operated from a number of venues including a theater and classroom operation at the current site of the popular Playa Azul restaurant on Santa Barbara Street.
But 50 years ago, a single real estate transaction changed all that.
In that all-but-forgotten deal, the predecessor to the University of California, Santa Barbara, gave up its rights to a campus on the city’s Mesa, paving the way for the community college to take over a parcel that would be reopened in the 1960s with the signature modernist architecture that makes the campus one of the most attractive in the community college system.
The University of California would later consolidate its campus on the city’s Riviera with other operations and make its home at Isla Vista, becoming the third campus in the university system.
With a permanent home finally secured 50 years after beginning operations, Santa Barbara City College would go on to flourish and its campus would become a magnet for educational programs — including an active continuing education outreach effort to the local community.
Santa Barbara City College commenced its 100th birthday celebration in a low-key way on Dec. 1, with the unveiling of a photo display at City Hall and the cutting of a birthday cake.
Budget cuts and austerity measures have taken a bit of the gloss off this milestone. But the lessons of “thinking big” about the future and taking bold steps when it comes to land use should not be lost on our leaders.
Facing tough times, we often are inclined to be timid in our actions and defensive about the future. But that’s not the way our leaders have built our landmark institutions.
Civic visionaries with bold ideas created UCSB, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and more recently California State University, Channel Islands. As we emerge from our great recession, new opportunities will present themselves — we should not be afraid to take advantage of them.