Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 2:50 am | Fair 44º


Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club Pushes Back on Potential New Police Station Site

One possible location for new facility currently houses the Louise Lowry Davis Center, 1235 Teen Center and Spencer Adams Park

Members of the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club donned blue t-shirts to attend Wednesday’s Parks and Recreation Commission Click to view larger
Members of the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club donned blue t-shirts to attend Wednesday’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting for a discussion of possible sites for a new police station. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The possibility of building a new police station in the city of Santa Barbara along De La Vina Street has sparked opposition from some area residents.

More than 30 blue-shirted Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club members filled the Santa Barbara council chamber Wednesday during the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting to push back on a site city staff is pursuing for the Santa Barbara Police Department — the area that houses the Louise Lowry Davis Center, the 1235 Teen Center and Spencer Adams Park.

A public vote is required to change the site use from a park, principle planner Brad Hess said. The earliest the initiative could be placed on the ballot is November 2019, he said.

“It’s not easy to acquire park land for another use in this town,” Hess said. “Our parks are cherished, and we don’t want to change them. We are looking right now as objectively as we can, not subjectively as to where is the best site for the next 50 years. 

“This is an emotional issue,” he continued. “I see a sea of blue out here that is for the lawn bowlers.”

Janet Napier, president of the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club, said the club is a “historic treasure in the city.” She said its 120 members will be working hard for a "no" vote if the city decides to place an initiative on the ballot to undesignate the location as a park.

“I’m here to speak against the new police station at the Louise Lowry Davis Center and adjacent parking lot,” Napier said. “I do understand the need for a new police station. However, I find the size of the proposed building to be totally incapable with the neighborhood, which is largely residential, including many senior citizens.” 

Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club member Sharron Adams echoed similar comments, and said tourists and residents both enjoy the abundance of open space and parks in the city.

“It seems our park is threatened,” said Adams, who resides one block from Spencer Adams Park. “For 81 years, community members have enjoyed the sport of lawn bowls every week, year-round on the bowling greens. This downtown open space is always vibrant, and vital with activities.”

The 1.6-acre parking lot at the Santa Barbara and Cota streets intersection (Cota Commuter Lot) is another location city staff is considering for the police station. The area is now home to the downtown farmers market on Saturday.

“At this point, It seems the Cota street one seems more feasible,” Commissioner Andria Martinez Cohen said. “I think giving the complexity, difficulty, public process, the programming that’s at the teen center and Louise Lowry Davis Center, and given the historic nature — it seems like that is tougher.”

The Louise Lowry Davis center Click to view larger
The Louise Lowry Davis Center at Victoria and De la Vina streets is one possible site for a new Santa Barbara police station. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Both locations are being assessed architecturally and environmentally, taking into account all of the variables that influence the site selection process, according to Hess.

City staff is slated to bring the council a site selection recommendation in early 2019, Hess said.

The police station at 215 E. Figueroa St. was built in 1959, Hess said, and it does not meet modern building code standards and has accessibility issues.

Construction of a new police headquarters is required to sufficiently house all police operations into one building for more efficient public service.

“It’s safe, but it needs to be better,” Hess said. “Having everyone under one roof is the goal.”

Hess said ideally the new site would include 70,850 square feet, 252 secured parking spaces and 80 public parking spaces. Some facilities could be off-site, he said.

The Figueroa Street building was constructed to house a staff of more than 80 employees, according to Hess, and 211 people work in the building.

“That many people require a large building,” Hess said. “There are many different services under one roof.”

There are multiple locations housing police officers and administrative staff. The building serves as the main administrative office for services, a jail, shooting range, chemical and special weapons and tactics equipment, criminal records and crime scene evidence. 

In case of a disaster, the building also serves as Santa Barbara’s backup emergency operations center. The police and fire communications center that handles 9-1-1 calls and radio communication is located within the basement of the Granada Garage.

“We do operate 24/7,” Police Chief Lori Luhnow told the commission. “We have employees on station property for most of the night.”

In 2000, the SBPD began leasing an adjacent building to address overcrowding. The building contains about 40 police officers and administrative staff.

This isn’t the first time city staff looked at the Police Department's needs for a new station.

Seismic retrofit and building assessment studies were completed in 2010, and a needs assessment study in 2012, but the project was put on hold due to the lack of funding. 

With Measure C sales tax money providing a funding source, the project was reinstated, and a request for qualifications soliciting consultant teams for pre-construction services was released in February. A contract was awarded in June.

The city is hosting multiple informational meetings regarding the site selection for the new police station. More information is available on the city’s dedicated webpage for the project at

“We are trying to make the best decision on this, and part of that is public input,” Hess said. “People will be able to... ask questions in a more intimate setting.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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