Santa Barbara City Council moves forward with long-awaited project
The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to award a $4.5 million contract to Cearnal Collective for architectural and design services for a long-planned modern police station and associated parking structure.
Councilmembers also adopted a final mitigated negative declaration, following a required environmental review that concluded there would be no significant environmental impact.
The new 53-foot-tall, 64,000-square-foot police headquarters is slated to be built on Cota Street, where a commuter parking lot is now situated.
The site is at Cota and Santa Barbara streets. The new station’s address will be 601 Santa Barbara St., and the facility will replace the current station at 215 E. Figueroa St.
The new station’s adjacent parking structure will accommodate 236 parking spaces, with 128 spaces for Police Department fleet vehicles and 108 spaces for employee vehicles.
“I’m very proud to be here,” architect Brian Cearnal told the council Tuesday before the vote. “We’ve been working on it for four years and are looking forward to the next step.”
Mr. Cearnal called it “good news” that the new station will be located downtown. “It makes eminent sense.”
One of the most important elements of the new station is that it will give police department staff a place to park, which they don’t have today at the current station, he said.
The new station will unify dispatch with staff and officers going out on patrol. There will be a practice firing range in the basement, a second-floor meeting room that can be used by multiple city agencies and the public, a single unisex locker room for all officers and employees to use, a fitness facility with outdoor deck and a lounge for police officers complete with outdoor dining space.
Investigations and a crime lab will be on the third floor, as will the police chief’s office.
The station will face the mountains providing “fantastic light in working spaces for office staff,” he said.
The parking structure, he said, would be integrated with the station so it would not feel imposing. “It won’t look like a parking structure.”
Councilmembers were unanimous in praising the project.
“It’s pretty gratifying after all this time,” Councilmember Kristen Sneddon said. “This is a very positive move forward. I’m grateful how many times you paused to address community input.”
Councilmember Meagan Harmon agreed. “It really is remarkable. I’m happy to be here and to be moving this forward.”
She noted that now is the time to consider what to do with the current station once the new one is built. “We should include what that will become as part of the conversation,” she said, suggesting it might be “very well-suited” for affordable housing.
Councilmember Mike Jordan congratulated “the entire team” for working on the project. “Some are going to say the men and women on the force deserve this building, but everyone of our employees deserve to work in a safe and modern building.”
“We’ve waited four long years,” added Councilmember Eric Friedman. “This is one of the most important ways we have as a city to recruit and retain a police force. We want all of our staff to be able to live within the city. When that can’t happen, we have to have a great work environment.”
Noted Mayor Randy Rowse, “The community has waited a long time. It’s time to get going.”
In other business, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to negotiate a one-year extension of the current solid waste hauler franchise agreement with local company MarBorg Industries. If an agreement is not reached within eight months, the city retains the right to talk to other waste haulers.
Several speakers praised MarBorg for going far beyond its contract in dealing with the city, businesses, residents and nonprofits, calling them responsible and extremely responsive to customers’ needs.
“They’re more than a trash company. I don’t know what we’d do without them. They’re part of the community,” said Hillary Hauser, president and executive director of the nonprofit Heal the Ocean.
Earlier in the meeting, the council approved items on their consent calendar without discussion, including:
— Updating the Santa Barbara Airport Master Plan by authorizing the airport to execute a $919,000-plus contract with Mead and Hunt Inc. for master planning services.
— Ratifying a three-year pact negotiated between the city and the Santa Barbara City Firefighters’ Association calling for across-the-board salary increases of 1.5% effective July 30 and 3% as of July 30, 2023.
— Authorizing an agreement with Carbon Solutions Group EV for another 92 electric vehicle charging stations to be installed in the city on top of the 66 already in operation, with the potential of adding more up to a total of 258 stations.