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Question: How do we get the City of Santa Barbara to consider non-city-owned lands for the police station? For instance Sears at La Cumbre Plaza and Macy’s downtown.
— Joe Blum, Santa Barbara

Many people have posed a similar question to Noozhawk and to city planners who have been evaluating sites for a new Santa Barbara police station.

Principal project manager Brad Hess presented a list of community suggestions at the Nov. 8 Planning Commission meeting and said the city had rejected all of them because it doesn’t own the properties, among other reasons.

That list included the former Macy’s; Sears, the former Saks building and the main post office on Anacapa Street downtown; Earl Warren Showgrounds; and the National Guard armory property on East Canon Perdido that the Santa Barbara Unified School District has now purchased.

In response to repeated questions, the city released a document listing the properties considered in its police station site selection process, and the reasons they were rejected. Scroll down to read the full list.

“There are no privately owned buildings in Santa Barbara that can be converted to a police station meeting today’s requirements,” including seismic safety, the city said in a statement.

Converting the Macy’s and Sears buildings are frequent suggestions, but the properties are not owned by the city, are not for sale, and would have to be demolished and rebuilt, city planning staff said. The properties are also “oversized” for what the department needs, they say.

The ideal site would be several acres, with room for a 72,000-square-foot building, 252 secured parking spaces and additional public spaces, Hess said.

City planners narrowed the list of potential city-owned sites to two: the East Cota Street commuter lot adjacent to Antioch University Santa Barbara and the land currently housing the Louise Lowry Davis Center, 1235 Teen Center and Spencer Adams Park, which is home to the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club.

There has been public pushback to both sites, since the weekly farmers’ market and community gathering places would be displaced.

A new police station will be funded with voter-approved Measure C funds, and using a city-owned property is the “least expensive route, for sure, on this project,” Hess told the Planning Commission.

The sales-tax increase measure was intended to bring in $22 million per year, but came up short in the first quarter it was collected.

The Police Department has outgrown the current station at 215 E. Figueroa St., which was built in 1959, and construction costs for a new station are estimated at $80 million.

Keeping the police station in the downtown corridor is preferred, since most calls are there and officers regularly visit the nearby Santa Barbara County Superior Court complex, city planners have said.

Building a new station at the current Figueroa Street site was ruled out because of its size, being only 1.1 acres, and the difficulty to relocate the entire police department during construction, according to the city.

Other city-owned sites that were considered and rejected, according to the planning department, include:

» Parks & Recreation Department and municipal facilities property: located within the 500-year flood zone

» Santa Barbara Golf Club, the municipal course at 3500 McCaw Ave.: not downtown, requires major change to golf course

» Parking Lot 11 at Anacapa and East Haley streets: within the 500-year flood zone

» Commuter parking lot at West Carrillo and Castillo streets: property size inefficient, requires a creek setback and access issues (due to the one-way Castillo Street)

» Alameda Park at 1400 Santa Barbara St.: historic park, has mature landscaping, requires a vote to change its use

» Existing site on East Figueroa Street: size is insufficient for new station

» Parking Lot 3 at Chapala and West Figueroa streets: insecure, requires back-of-house access

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Barbara Police Station Project Site Selection Information