On Wednesday the Santa Barbara Police Department released its list of preferred building sites for its new police station and the Santa Barbara City Council is slated to choose its own preferred site on Tuesday.
According to an agenda report prepared by Principal Project Manager Brad Hess, city staff recommends the council choose the Cota Commuter Parking Lot for the new police station. If the location is chosen, the council will direct staff to initiate an environmental review, in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, and conceptual project design.
The Cota Street site is used for the Saturday’s Farmers Market, which would be displaced if the property is chosen.
The police station project was revived after the passage of the 1 percent Measure C sales tax increase for infrastructure and community services in 2017.
The site selection process began in 2018 and since March staff has settled on five potential locations: the Louise Lowry Davis Center, the Cota Commuter Parking Lot, the Cota Commuter Parking Lot with a portion of the adjacent Employment Development Department parking lot, the Earl Warren Showgrounds, and the La Cumbre Plaza Sears.
The staff report says the Cota lot, 119 E. Cota St., is ideal because it will allow officers to quickly respond to calls in the central business district and is close to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, which will allow officers to attend court hearings conveniently.
The location is also the most environmentally friendly, according to the staff report.
“The preliminary environmental review indicates that, while there are potential significant environmental impacts, they are likely subject to mitigation,” reads the report.
The California Environmental Quality Act requires public agencies to designate a preferred project site for CEQA review. To help with the decision, staff prepared preliminary environmental reviews on all five potential sites.
They found the Louise Davis Center and Cota sites have “potentially significant temporary construction noise impacts,” but those may be mitigated to a less than significant level.
All five sites have potentially significant impacts on biological resources, usually due to mature tree loss, and historic or archaeological resources.
The Earl Warren and Sears sites could have significant traffic and transportation impacts and the Sears site has the additional problem of being located within a 200-foot buffer of an “apparently active” seismic fault.
Staff acknowledged that building the new police station at the Cota site would displace downtown commuters during the week and would impact the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.
“There are 221 parking spaces in the Cota Commuter Parking Lot and 391 permit holders. The relocation of these permit holders will be a priority and part of the parking study that will be initiated as part of the environmental review for this site,” read the Staff report.
Other city lots will be able to accommodate displaced commuters, but the lot’s free public parking on evenings and weekends would no longer be available, according to the staff report.
In October 2018 staff informed the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market Association that the Cota Commuter lot was being considered as the site for the new police station. Since then the staff has been working with the association to explore relocation options.
“Should the Cota Commuter Parking Lot be the site selected for development, Staff is committed to continue partnering with the Association to make the transition to a new location as seamless as possible,” reads the report.
Staff has identified 12 possible relocation sites in Santa Barbara. Those locations were not provided in the report.
The public is invited to attend the City Council meeting and provide comments. The meeting begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.
More information on the project is available at www.SantaBarbaraCA.gov/PoliceStation.