As we enter a new year, CEC is significantly expanding our staff and programming to meet the increasing demands of the climate crisis. To accommodate this growth, we are moving around the corner to 1219 State St., where CEC will once again have street level presence in the center of the community.
With roughly 8,000 more square feet of space, we envision this as being more than just an office space – it is a place to build regional capacity, expand our reach to the community, and connect more deeply through training rooms and a new webinar studio.
At this new location, we’ll build an anchor for environmental stewardship and leadership for the Central Coast. Read more about this move in the press release, and stay tuned for further news about CEC’s expanding programs.
This move, like each move before, reflects CEC’s evolving goals. Below, CEC founding Executive Director Paul Relis and CEC CEO Sigrid Wright reflect on our past locations and how each home played a critical role in the development of CEC’s work.
15 West Anapamu St.
Reflecting the vibrancy of the early 1970s, our first home was where we planted the roots of environmentalism in Santa Barbara. This 2,000 square-foot mural-adorned space was part office, part environmental bookstore, and full of ecological literature and window exhibits about community projects like natural foods and gardening. It was as much about being a part of the community as it was about activism. Other groups like the Sierra Club shared this home with us, and it became the headquarters for combatting massive commercial development on the Santa Barbara waterfront. Four days after receiving our incorporation papers on April 18, 1970, CEC held our first major activity here: closing off the street in front of the new office for one of the nation’s first Earth Day celebrations.
Chapala St. & De La Guerra St.
During these years, CEC spent a few years each in smaller spaces downtown as our external operations continued to grow. Our Chapala St. location featured a basement office with views into a courtyard, and was located where the MTD Transit Center stands today. The De La Guerra St. storefront office was cozy with the ambiance of a library and was within a block of City Hall. At these humble yet lively headquarters, we focused our resources on projects like community gardens (including a space that today is home to Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens) and municipal-scale composting while preparing for the big things ahead.
Gildea Resource Center
In the 1970s we purchased a property on the Mesa that had once been an old dairy farm. We developed some experimental buildings, including one with a sod roof and composting toilet. In the early 1980s we ran a design contest for what would be one of the first grid-tied photovoltaic systems installed in California: the Gildea Resource Center. This building embodied environmental innovation and featured many other state-of-the-art green features, well before the existence of LEED building certification. Here, we experimented with other garden projects including a Neighborhood Supported Agriculture program and a children’s summer camp. This home became an environmental sanctuary in Santa Barbara and was foundational to what CEC has become today. When we eventually sold this location, we did so with care and deliberation to VNA Health (known at the time as Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care of Santa Barbara), which converted it to an 18-bed facility called Serenity House. Selling this and other properties gave us the resources to fully concentrate our efforts on what we recognized as the greatest environmental threat to our community: climate change.
26 West Anapamu St.
In 2005 we sold our Mesa headquarters, along with our recycling and hazardous waste facilities, and moved into the heart of downtown. Across the street from our original office space, CEC was now more accessible by foot, bike, and bus to staff and visitors. As a tenant of the Hutton Parker Foundation building and neighbor to the Fund for Santa Barbara and Westmont Downtown, we had generous support from our nonprofit community. We poured all our resources – our policies, advocacy, and program work – into local solutions to climate change. This included publishing a groundbreaking report in 2007, A New Energy Direction: a Blueprint for Santa Barbara County, one of the first regional carbon-neutral plans developed in the country. In our 15 years at this location, we saw the number of groups engaging in the climate crisis increasing, and steadily grew partnerships and programs.
1219 State St.
Continuing our relationship with the Hutton Parker Foundation, we moved around the corner to 1219 State Street, where CEC will expand its operations and once again have street level presence in the center of the community. Read more about this move in the press release.
Paul Relis became the founding Executive Director of the Community Environmental Council in 1970, a year after the infamous Santa Barbara Oil Spill of January 28, 1969. Paul served as a Board Member of the CEC from 1998 until 2010, and served as Board President from 2005-2006.
Sigrid Wright is the CEO of the Community Environmental Council and has been part of the organization – and the places it has called home – for 25 years.