City explores use options of vacant Union 76 station

August 25, 2004
Santa Paula City Council

The former Union 76 gas station just east of the Santa Paula California Oil Museum is in city hands, but now the question is what to do with it.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe former Union 76 gas station just east of the Santa Paula California Oil Museum is in city hands, but now the question is what to do with it.The City Council discussed alternatives – including eventual use by the Santa Paula Museum of Art – at the Aug. 2 meeting.If the Santa Paula Museum of Art – controllers of the 400-plus Santa Paula Collection of notable art – gets approval they would be the first art museum in the Santa Clara River Valley.At the Aug. 2 council meeting, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said staff needed council direction on the short- or long-term use of the property, now under city control.The city leases the oil museum, which chronicles the history of the oil industry including Santa Paula’s early prominence, from Unocal, the former Union Oil Co., founded on the second floor of the museum over a century ago.Bobkiewicz noted that Unocal recently repurchased the vacant gas station and added it to the lease the city currently holds for the oil museum.The pumps have been removed but the island remains and the vacant building still looks like a classic gasoline station.Bobkiewicz said the building, with some improvements, could be used by a non-profit or small business or demolished for other uses.
“If it’s left as an open lot it can be used for a variety of purposes,” ranging from a pocket park to special events,” noted Bobkiewicz.Councilman Ray Luna asked if there had been an outreach to adjacent businesses on their use preferences, but Bobkiewicz said that council direction should preface any other action.“Put feelers out there and see if there is any interest,” in the building’s use, said Councilman John Procter. “If that doesn’t pan out,” demolition would be his recommended option.Luna noted that he has visited businesses housed in former gas stations that highlight past use.“…they put the pumps back and make it some kind of business other than a gas station,” said Luna.The council also discussed the desire of the Santa Paula Museum of Art to be included in the civic center planning process and their future plans for the gas station property.A letter from Site Committee Chairman Scott Dunbar and Executive Board President Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson noted that the location is ideal but not only for proximity to the oil museum.As the “Proposed building would be architecturally compatible with the vintage style of the oil museum, yet exhibit its own unique flair indicative of use,” the new art museum would also enhance the city’s eastern entrance, stated the letter.

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