A local leader in the regional climate movement has announced plans to grow in a larger space at 1219 State St.
The Community Environmental Council will expand its footprint when it takes up residence in the prominent Santa Barbara storefront formerly occupied by the Unity Shoppe across from The Granada.
While just around the corner from the CEC’s previous home at 26 W. Anapamu St., it’s a notable move for the nonprofit. The organization will gain roughly 8,000 more square feet to better suit its new programs and ramp up its engagement with the community.
The CEC relocation is seen as a sign of some downtown reinvigoration. Another sign is Westmont College’s plans to open a satellite campus at the CEC’s old space on Anapamu Street, which the college recently purchased from the CEC’s landlord, the Hutton Parker Foundation.
“We were already in talks with (foundation president) Tom Parker about a location change when the time was right,” said CEC CEO Sigrid Wright in a news release. “With our staff and programming expanding, we would have soon outgrown our space and we knew we wanted to eventually move to a more visible location, like State Street. The timing of the sale to Westmont presented the perfect opportunity to do that.”
Due to the pandemic, the CEC is operating almost completely remotely at the moment, “but we can’t pause our efforts as we seek to advance rapid and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Eventually we will need this space to build regional capacity and expand our outreach to the community,” added Wright.
The CEC is developing three new programs to more closely engage adults and youth in the climate movement: a Climate Leadership Program, a Climate Justice Program and a Climate Resilience Program.
“After the pandemic these programs will rely on large gatherings and in-person events that will need adequate meeting and training spaces,” said Wright. “At that time, this new location will allow us to connect more deeply with the community through training rooms and facilities and a new webinar studio.”
The CEC is also speaking with an architect about building micro workspaces throughout the facility so that people can work outside or socially distanced during COVID-19 when the county moves out of the purple tier.
Ms. Wright said CEC’s future programming may take on hybrid formats and maintain some digital aspects that were developed as a result of the pandemic, including a webinar series, virtual roundtable sessions and real-time translated bilingual events.
But she said the CEC is moving ahead in planning for eventual in-person programs and is expecting as much as a 50% increase in staff in the next few years.
“We hope to be an anchor of environmental stewardship and leadership through community-centered events, such as participating in Santa Barbara’s First Thursdays or hosting film screenings. This block of State Street, which has traditionally been part of a food corridor, will allow for opportunities to promote sustainable and local food systems,” Ms. Wright said. “And since this particular building had already been utilized by previous nonprofits, it felt right to us.”