Some chose a suit and tie, while others stuck to their Misfits tees and rainbow-striped suspenders. Regardless of the impressions they hoped to make on the members of the Goleta city council, over 30 local high school and Santa Barbara City College students came to Monday night’s meeting to make a plea to save the soon-to-be-liquidated Living Room – Goleta’s only all-ages, drug- and alcohol-free concert venue.
The Living Room’s founder, Larry Mills, is now faced with the challenge of finding a new location for his club as the current space, the Airport Plaza, is scheduled to be replaced by a new set of office buildings. Concerned Goleta teens have organized an e-mail campaign requesting local officials to take notice and contacted news organizations, hoping to draw attention to their cause.
Over 25 speaker requests were submitted to the city council, but not all could be accommodated due to time restraints. Katie Tate, a former student at San Marcos High School who now attends Santa Barbara City College, was among those who recalled fond memories of their nights at the Living Room, emphasizing that they were all spent free of drugs and alcohol.
“We live in a community where our options are limited to I.V. or the bars. The Living Room is a really important place to hang out in a drug- and alcohol-free environment,” she said.
Other students stressed the importance of a positive musical environment in which they were able to express themselves among their peers, while others referred to the Living Room as a “sanctuary for youth.”
Several parents also attended the meeting and expressed their own concerns. Beverly Taylor, a Goleta resident and parent, said she attributed her daughter’s positive social development to her many nights spent at the Living Room. She said that for several years, the Living Room has provided Goleta and Santa Barbara teens with a safe and friendly environment to spend their weekends.
Janet Gilner, a concerned parent of a Dos Pueblos High School student and active in the Living Room’s cause, said Mills is looking to buy a space in Goleta where he can permanently establish the Living Room. However, he needs a temporary space for approximately three to six months where he can hold concerts in order to raise the necessary funds.
Mills needs about 3,000-4,000 square feet in a nonresidential area due to noise levels. Parking is also a large consideration. The problem, Gilner said, is that the only spaces that would be appropriate for the activities usually sponsored by the Living Room do not want to rent to Mills.
“I cannot believe the resistance to kids trying to find a place to hang out without drugs and alcohol,” Gilner said.
Gilner organized a list of goals, both short-term and long-term, for the city council to consider. Her list includes eight possible locations to temporarily hold Living Room events. These include the Goleta Valley Community Center, Spike’s Restaurant & Tavern on the Santa Barbara city golf course, the Goleta Unitarian Universalist church and the Boys and Girls Club. Gilner estimates that Mills will need to raise about $150,000 for a deposit on a new permanent site.
The Goleta city council members responded positively to the students’ concerns. “I would really like to go on the record as being in total support of this program. I hope the staff can come up with some concrete solutions,” council member Jean W. Blois said.
Mayor Jack Hawxhurst gave thanks to Gilner for her many efforts in contributing to the continuation of the teen venue and asked that she would continue to work towards this goal.
While no immediate decisions were made, the council members thanked the students for their participation in the meeting and assured them that their pleas would be considered in addressing the issue.