Thursday, September 29, 2022     Volume: 23, Issue: 31

Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on September 20th, 2022, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 30

Gas station stalemate


How long does it take to build a gas station? 

At least six years if you’re trying to do it in Buellton—and that’s before the project even gets approved. ARCO has been knocking on the city’s door since before 2018, wanting to bring the city “too much good stuff” with an AM/PM and put some of the cheapest gas around on the Avenue of Flags.

What’s the problem? Well. Art deco. 

You see, Buellton’s known for its beautiful art deco buildings (not) and ARCO is just not that into it. Apparently, the city passed new guidelines specifically for development along Avenue of Flags in 2017, and it includes art deco design guidelines.

That’s what’s holding up the project. And things got a little tense during the Sept. 15 Buellton Planning Commission meeting between ARCO’s architect and the commission’s chair, who had already sent the project back to the drawing board two times before the most recent meeting.

Chair Patty Hammel made it pretty clear: She’s sick of having to tell architect Alex Cuevas what his firm needs to do in order to gain project approval. She’s sick of being ignored. She’s sick of this project! 

It sounds like a bad marriage.

“A lot of these concerns … are the same thing. They haven’t been addressed,” she said on Sept. 15. “At this point, I’m really not inclined to send this back with a million conditions to do an approval.” 

Oh snap! 

Maybe Cuevas is just bad at listening or doesn’t understand direction, because after city staff presented a lengthy list of elements that needed to be changed, he seemed confused.

“Why can’t you just be straightforward? We’re an architectural firm,” he said. “Just tell me what you want and we can put it together.” 

Well, it seems like the city’s been telling you what it wants for the last almost five years, and you and/or your client still aren’t getting the picture. They want art deco and they want it now! 

Finally, Cuevas seemed to bend a little, telling them that ARCO—being the corporate entity that it is—doesn’t want to build a throwback to the 1920s. 

“We’ve had a lot of resistance from ARCO … They want their standard. … They don’t want anything else,” he told the commission. 

That makes total sense. They want blue and red with white all over, basic bitch corporate architecture that isn’t going to cost very much and is recognizable to passersby. ARCO wants to be a one-stop shop for fuel and food, while AM/PM wants to push out crappy hot dogs and truck stop coffee to anyone who will have it.

And let me tell you something: This little bird is in. My wings get tired and I want to gas up. I want Hot Cheetos and an Arizona Iced Tea and to be on my way. 

But, it looks like we’re at a stalemate, because Hammel said the city isn’t going to grant exceptions to a corporation so they can have consistent branding. So who’s going to bend? Does ARCO, which has gas stations at seemingly every stop along Highway 101, really need Buellton and its art-deco line in the sand? Or does Buellton really need the revenue? 

It might not be a marriage that’s going to last.

The canary is dropping red hot crumbs. Send napkins to

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