New American Indian Health Clinic Gets Positive Review at Santa Barbara Planning Commission


by Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Published October 22,2023


Clinic plans new location at site of a former Army Reserve building next to MacKenzie Park


For the past 30 years, the American Indian Health & Services Clinic has provided care in somewhat dated office buildings on Outer State Street.


“It wasn’t built to be a medical facility,” Beth Collins, an attorney with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, said of the current clinic at 4141 State St. in El Mercado Plaza.


“The space is cramped. It is poorly configured. We have five dentists sharing one small office now.”


All of that is about to change.


The American Indian Health & Services Clinic is planning to move to 3237 State St., across Las Positas Road from Loreto Plaza.


The new location, the site of a former Army Reserve building, will allow the nonprofit organization to consolidate its offices and provide a greater range of health care services.


“This is a perfect, adaptive reuse of a building that has just been sitting vacant and getting more and more dilapidated-looking,” said Sheila Lodge, a member of the Santa Barbara Planning Commission and a former mayor.


“I am very pleased to see this project come forward.”


The commission voted 6-0 on Thursday to support the clinic’s specific plan, development plan and general plan amendment.


The proposed specific plan would allow medical offices and require that any future residential housing be sold or rented to very low-, low- and moderate-income households.


Plans call for new offices, exam rooms, treatment rooms, labs, dental facilities, a community room, employee break room with kitchen, locker rooms, outdoor staff patio and a second-story roof deck.


The Defense Department designated the site as excess property and transferred it to the federal Indian Health Service.


In a first-of-its-kind transaction, IHS then transferred the property to the local clinic.


The site, adjacent to MacKenzie Park, has not been used as an armory since 2009.


Collins said it’s the first time that land has been acquired back for Native American health care use.


“After everything that this community, that Native Americans have gone through, that this is a transfer back, it’s moving in a direction that is so meaningful,” said Roxana Bonderson, the Planning Commission chairwoman.


“Honestly, it may be the highlight of my tenure here on the Planning Commission. I got goosebumps just saying that out loud.”


The clinic opened in 1994 and serves American Indian, Native Alaskan and non-native medically underserved populations. It saw 7,800 patients in 2022.


Bonderson said she grew up in Santa Barbara and has known many people who have either worked at the clinic or used its services.


“It’s very special to our community and most people don’t even know it exists,” she said. “I am really, really happy it is moving into a more prominent location.”


In addition to the new buildings, the existing parking lot would be redesigned to accommodate 103 vehicle parking spaces. Some of the spaces would be covered by solar carports.


Ten short-term bicycle parking spaces and 10 long-term bicycle spaces would be installed.


Crews plan to remove a pepper tree and three eucalyptus trees. The chain-link fence currently surrounding the building also will be removed and replaced with steel fencing.


Commissioner Devon Wardlow also supported the project.


“I think it is wonderful that you guys are going to have a home that is more successful for all residents to participate in,” she said.


“This is going to create a benefit to all residents who live in this neighborhood.”


TynanGroup is the Project Manager on the American Indian Health Clinic

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