Santa Barbara’s proposed new police station in the city’s downtown is moving closer to becoming more than just a concept.
The city’s Architectural Board of Review gave the project mostly favorable reviews at its meeting last week, with members remarking that the structure’s design is moving in the right direction.
“I think the building is quite handsome, and it has really come a long way since the beginning,” board member David Black said.
Although the project is only in the conceptual design phase, the city’s Planning Commission has already given approval for the building to reach 60 feet tall. The next step is for the developer, the city of Santa Barbara, to submit a formal application.
Unlike other development projects, however, don’t expect to see story poles mark the height of the various levels of the project.
Instead, the city and the project’s architect, Brian Cearnal, provided a 50-second photo simulation so people could see what the project would look like in the context of the downtown and the neighborhood.
Installing story poles, Cearnal said, would close the market for about two weeks and cost the farmers market “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
The latest changes to the project include stepping the building back from Santa Barbara Street, varying the heights of the building to avoid a box-like feel, and installing stones, landscaping and benches along Cota Street.
ABR members had previously complained that the building and the parking garage was too wall-like and lacked a connection to Cota Street.
Cearnal also added a new planter design with Police Department signage at the corner Santa Barbara and Cota streets.
The city wants to build the station at the site of a commuter parking lot on the corner of Cota and Santa Barbara streets, a move that will displace the popular farmers market.
The current police station at 215 E. Figueroa St. needs a seismic upgrade, has soil contamination in the parking lot, and multiple plumbing and electrical infrastructure deficiencies.
The city has been struggling for more than two decades to figure out a way to build a new police station. A bond measure for that purpose was rejected by voters in 1999.
The project has had many start-stops since then, but the passage of Measure C, a 1-percent sales tax increase, also created a revenue stream to help build the facility.
The $80 million headquarters project calls for a three-story, 53-foot-high, 65,000-square-foot structure, and an 86,000-square-foot-parking structure with 244 parking spaces.
Board member Leon Olson supported the direction of the building, but recommended caution with the benches.
“You shouldn’t make those sleeping size,” Olson said.
The ABR spent a lot of time at the meeting offering feedback on small details of the aesthetics, including varying the sizes of the windows and the design of the underside of the trellis.
Cearnal remarked that the proposal is still only in the conceptual design phase, and that it must still come back to the board for project design approval.
“These window openings that are rectangular or more horizontal in orientation I think are more counter to the traditional Santa Barbara style,” said board president Kevin Moore.
He said the window-to-wall proportion was off with the project.
“More wall would be more in-line with an El Pueblo Viejo style building,” Moore said.