October 2012, by Britta Gustafson

The Cliff House is a building at Coal Oil Point from the 1940s, owned by UCSB and used for events sometimes. It's a good example of a building that might not be particularly architecturally distinguished but tells a story across decades of land use - military, ranch, education, recreation/reserve. UCSB plans to demolish it sooner rather than later and replace it with something new.


February 2012, by Britta Gustafson (CC BY-SA)

In the early 1940s, the government established Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara on the land that is now the Santa Barbara Airport and UCSB campus, with related military installations at Coal Oil Point. A document about the area says "During World War II, the ranch was the site of a Coast Guard radar station and placed buildings on the property strategic to the war effort." This list of WWII coastal defenses says "75mm field guns (1942 - 1944) were emplaced at Dulah, Punta Gorda, Coal Oil Point, Naples, and El Capitan (State Beach)."

UCSB's document about the planned demolition of the Cliff House (which used to be available here) said "The approximately 65-year-old Cliff House (building 362) was built by the Goleta Marine Corps Air Station between in 1943 and 1947. Military base inventories listed it as Building 446 and it served as the officers’ club and mess hall (Nye 2009). The property was under the ownership of the Campbell Ranch Estate until it was bought by the Devereux Foundation in 1947."

It's visible in photos from the California Coastal Records Project - here's a view from 1972.

Former use as event space

February 2012, by Britta Gustafson (CC BY-SA)People could rent the Cliff House as event space via UCSB Conference Services.

Sometimes clubs and other organizations have meetings, receptions, and ceremonies here.

It has odd wood paneling inside.

UCSB's plan to demolish and replace it

Map of the current area, from page 4 of the UCSB and IV Walking Tour

This UCSB planning memo from July 2003 says "Replacing the existing Cliff House seminar and conference facility was identified in the 1990 Long Range Development Plan and would be carried forward as part of this proposed project. The existing Cliff House would be replaced with a facility equivalent in size to all existing development at Coal Oil Point. Additional parking will be evaluated at Coal Oil Point." Coastal development policies seem to mean that UCSB can more easily get approval for new buildings if they replace old ones (instead of adding to the square footage of developed land), so if UCSB wants to have something modern here, tearing down the Cliff House makes that easier.

UCSB's document about the planned demolition of the Cliff House said "The Cliff House, as its name suggests, is within very close proximity to the ocean bluffs at Coal Oil Point. Removal of the structure would reduce the potential risk to life and property posed by erosion of the bluff face at Coal Oil Point and the eventual deterioration of the structure."


WWII buildings like this one are some of the oldest around the UCSB/IV area, and they're visible reminders of how this place became UCSB: Santa Barbara County needed to do something with its old military base, so why not a university campus. UCSB seems to intend to eventually demolish most (if not all) of these old buildings. This one may not be suitable for preservation, but it would be interesting to preserve a couple of the better-positioned and more-usable ones, such as buildings 429, 408, or 406:

Building 429 in February 2015, by Britta Gustafson the Geography Department's history of the campus and this post about the College of Creative Studies building.

Base photo from the Online Archive of California, which says copyright status unknown.