The Santa Barbara City Council heard an update regarding the extension of the emergency fire lane on state street as well as a yearly review from the Santa Barbara Police Department during its meeting Tuesday.
Previously, the council approved a 14-and-a-half-foot fire lane to be constructed by February on State Street. However, the staff introduced a new ordinance which extends the fire lane to 20 feet.
Staff additionally recommended that State Street businesses are required to be “portable,” meaning outdoor equipment and furnishings can be removed within 24 hours without the use of mechanized equipment.
Staff asked that the extended fire lanes be implemented by March 8 and provided several later dates for portability to be implemented.
“What we’ve pulled off so far is incredible, but we’re not done yet,” said Councilmember Kristen Sneddon. “I’m supportive of the ordinance as it has been amended.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Also on Tuesday, Interim Police Chief Bernard Melekian provided the City Council with a yearly update from the Santa Barbara Police Department.
According to Chief Melekian, a combination of COVID-19 related issues and a staffing shortage made for a difficult 2021.
The department currently has 44 vacancies. This is 20.5% of the department’s staff.
“I would point out that seven of the professional staff vacancies are in dispatch,” Chief Melekian said. “This has a direct effect on customer service and forces us to move sworn staff into dispatch.”
The interim chief also explained how the changing nature of COVID-19 directly impacted the police department.
“The omicron variant hit us hard for about two weeks,” Chief Melekian said. “At one point, we had 25 COVID-positive staff members out.”
The department also addressed how they are working to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods.
“Our community liaison officers have an open dialogue with residents in person,” said Officer Marylinda Arroyo. “They create a network with neighborhoods and establish partnerships that didn’t exist before.”
Councilmembers shared that they were appreciative of the work the police department presented.
“There have been so many tough conversations this past year, and I’m appreciative of just how high you set the bar in this community,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Meagan Harmon.