Who Bought the Former St. Mary’s Seminary—and Why?

A couple of weeks ago, the St. Mary’s seminary up on Las Canoas Road was auctioned off. Can you find out who bought it and what his or her plans are? —N.

The auction was news to me—I can’t imagine why any seller would want to keep an auction hush-hush—but the 35.69-acre property (1964 Las Canoas Road) did indeed close last week. The final price was $7.618 million.

It’s quite a property. From a listing for when it was priced at $14.95 million: “The complex comprises seven separate buildings totaling approximately 55,223 square feet, including a two-story chapel with 280-person capacity, commercial kitchen capable of serving 100 people, gymnasium with two full-size basketball courts, and two separate dormitory buildings.” As for what can be done with it, another listing had this: “Current zoning allows for single-family residential units, accessory structures, and group homes. Other uses, such as churches, convents, monasteries, educational institutions, and senior care facilities, are also allowed subject to the approval of a conditional use permit. The project received approval from the city in 2016 to operate the site as a fully licensed residential treatment facility. However, the site can also be subdivided into multiple residential lots, providing optionality for investors.”

The buyer is Christus Victor LLC, registered under the name of Charles Rutsch of Carmichael, Calif., outside Sacramento. I found an email address and asked what his plans might be: “My intention for the property is to run it as a retreat center around religious, educational, and personal growth issues,” he replied. “I’m an investor in real estate and stocks, which I’ve done for over 25 years. I’ve also had a boyhood love of camps, retreats, theology, and learning new things. When a friend mentioned that the property was selling at an auction, I took an interest in it and decided to bid on it.” (As for the “Christus Victor” name, you can find more info in papers Rutsch has published online.)

Rutsch also said he’s working on the project with his brother, Edwin Rutsch, the founding director of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy and a candidate in the Democratic primary for California’s 8th congressional district this past June. “We are working to bridge personal, social and political divides with mutual listening, empathy, constructive dialogue and education,” he explained in an email. “This will be a major aspect of the Retreat Center.”

The brothers—who recently posted a 35-minute video tour of their first visit to the property on YouTube—are considering an Empathy Circle to discuss visions for the property. If you’re interested in participating, you can contact Edwin at [email protected].

Got a question you’d like investigated? Email [email protected] or text 917-209-6473.


Previous Burning Questions:
••• What will happen to the SBPD building when the new building is completed?
••• How does the city decide to mark bike lanes?
••• What’s the story with this house on W. Cota Street?
••• What are those little houses on Santa Barbara Street?
••• Which Highway 101 exits are getting renamed?
••• Will Delta Air Lines ever reinstate service to Santa Barbara Airport?
••• Is the Music Academy of the West adding pedestrian gates?
••• Is the county really taking private property for trailhead parking?
••• Why does the Coast Village Road median look so bad?
••• Is Santa Barbara going to introduce residential compost bins?
••• What’s the point of this light pole near the freeway?
••• Why are the city’s parking lots scanning license plates?
↓↓↓ What’s inside Paseo Nuevo’s State Street tower?
••• What’s the point of these markings on Laguna Street?
••• Why is there a giant red shoe off Highway 101?
••• Will the Dorinda Triangle ever get beautified?
••• Are we no longer allowed on the SBHS baseball field?
••• What does “SBTP” on this post mean?
••• What’s up with the “no e-bike” signs on local trails?
••• Why is Franceschi House in a holding pattern?
••• Why is there a train station inside this State Street storefront?
••• What’s happening with this derelict house in Summerland?
••• Why is there wood on some power lines?
••• Can you explain how sundowner winds work?
••• Why is there a pressure cooker attached to this utility pole?
••• What’s this concrete ramp thing on East Beach?
••• Why does “USA” get written on the street?
••• What are those poles in the ocean near the Ritz-Carlton Bacara?
••• Are people really allowed to set fires in the middle of Montecito?
••• What’s the story with the half-finished lot next to the Montecito Country Mart? 


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One Comment

Sam Tababa

Very glad to read that the property will not become housing for the homeless or a high priced Medicare scam addiction center. Bring on the empathy and the learning!