City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

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City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station
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City Council meeting on September 17 (Photo: City of Santa Barbara)

By edhat staff

The Santa Barbara City Council voted in favor of repurposing the Cota Street Commuter Parking Lot for the new Santa Barbara Police Station site on Tuesday evening.

In 2017, with the passage of Measure C, Santa Barbara residents chose to create a new police station to address what the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) states are inadequacies at the current location and a need for special equipment necessities and everyday patrol.

Last week the City released five potential locations for the new station: Sears, Earl Warren Showgrounds, Louise Lowry Rec Center, the existing location, and the Cota Street parking lot. These sites were narrowed down from 19 total which included: Alameda Park, Armory, Carrillo Commuter Parking Lot, City Parking Lot 11 (Haley), City Parking Lot 3 (Figueroa), City Parks & Rec Facilities Property, Federal Property at Las Positas/State St, Macy's Downtown, Newspress Building, Santa Barara Golf Club, SB School District Admin Offices, US Post Office, and Verizon Building.

All sites were reviewed based on the criteria of location, size, flood zones, re-use structures, city-ownership, and charter limitation/annexation.

The vote was 4-2 in favor of the Cota Street Commuter parking lot with councilmembers Jason Dominguez and Kristen Sneddon dissenting. Councilmember Randy Rowse abstained from the vote stating a conflict of interest due to his restaurant, Paradise Cafe, being near the site.

During the meeting the Louise Lowry Davis Center was discussed as needing a zoning change from park land and a public vote. Earl Warren Showground and the Sears building were deemed too far away from the "main call area" which would delaying police response time in emergencies, as well as both properties being privately owned and too expensive.

The Cota Street Commuter Parking Lot currently charges $70 per month for commuter Monday through Friday parking. The lot has 221 spaces and if all those spaces were full of permit purchasing commuters, an unverified estimate would equate to $15,470/month and $185,640 annually for the city. 

Farmer's Market Rally (Photo: John Palminteri)

Additionally, the parking lot is used for the downtown Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. Farmers and supporters of the weekly market have gathered thousands of signatures to support keeping the farmer's market at its current location.

Supporters of the Farmer's Market held a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday ahead of the City Council meeting wearing shirts that read "Peas Lettuce Romaine." The first farmers’ market in Santa Barbara was held at the Santa Barbara Mission in 1979 and in 1983 Santa Barbara Certified Farmers’ Market Association was established as Non-Profit Mutual Benefit Corporation. The market's Executive Director, Sam Edelman, stated they've been in operation at Cota Street for over 35 years and average 3,000 to 5,000 visitors.

Many Farmer's Market supporters who oppose the Cota location spoke during the meeting expressing concern for farmers loss of income as well as the lot location being too small and a hasty decision. Local resident Lanny Ebenstein stated there isn't a general consensus in the community to make this decision today. "If the council moves prematurely with the Cota lot, it's going to delay everything," he said urging the Councilmembers to discuss and review other options.

Ben Sprague, the CEO of Earl Warren Showgrounds, stated the board was not notified the showgrounds were being considered as a possible location. He then reminded the Council that in 2017 the board denied the possibility of California Highway Patrol building new headquarters at their location.

Supporters of the Cota location spoke of the safety risks to police officers the longer this decision is drug out. Representatives of the Police Association League (PAL) expressed how vital this station will be to help local children. Kevin McGibben, CEO of LogicMonitor based in downtown Santa Barbara, expressed support for the new station stating how important quick response time is to crime and how it will affect the safety of his employees.

Farmer's Market Executive Director Sam Edelman stated it's been evident the Cota lot was a target from the beginning and that De La Guerra Plaza was where the city wanted to place the farmers. After his public comment Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez asked how many of his farmers are residents of the City of Santa Barbara. Edelman stated, "I don't know those demographics... maybe a dozen or so." 

Gutierrez followed by stating, "That bothers me a little bit because I've asked you a couple of times already for that number. What I'm worried about is that your farmers, they're not residents of the city, they're not the ones calling 9-1-1 here, they're calling somewhere else, so there this disconnect because there's 90,000 people that live here that rely on this police force. So, I don't think it's appropriate for outside business owners to dictate how a city will support their police."

Owner of Dune Coffee Roasters/French Press, Julia Mayer, stated the reason she signed a 20-year lease for her business at the corner of Cota and Anacapa Streets was because of the symbiotic relationships with the farmers. "I'm committed to the health of downtown Santa Barbara and I want my taxes to be paid downtown," she said. While stating it's risky to move something with such roots, she ended her public comment by pointing at Gutierrez saying "and I'm a westside resident and business owner."

Local activist and Los Olivos resident, Anna Marie Gott, urged the council to look for new options and to take Cota Street and the Louise Lowry location off the list. She stated there's a desperate need for a new police station but the Cota location is very constrained and doesn't allow for growth.  She argued that due diligence was not done as it was clear that Sears location owners wanted to build housing and Earl Warren Showgrounds had no idea.

Anna Marie Gott speaking at Tuesday's City Council meeting

All Santa Barbara City Councilmembers agreed the current police station is inadequate and unsafe, offering support for a new station.

Councilmember Eric Friedman stated both police officers and farmers have the two toughest jobs in America today and feel there are critical issues as the current station is not seismically sound and lacks proper facilities for female officers. He supported the measure to move forward.

Councilmember Jason Dominguez proposed to eliminate the Cota location for 10-12 weeks and to look for another viable option then to come back and compare. He agreed that Cota was the obvious front runner and everyone provided evidence to make that location stick but it ultimately offers no room for growth.

Councilmember Sneddon agreed saying she changed her mind and cannot support the Cota lot at this point and wants to see it and the Louise Lowry location removed from the list.

Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez spoke passionately for the police department and challenged those opposed to the Cota location to go for a police ride-along. He then pointed out Mayer and offered for her to come door-to-door with him and chat with residents on the Westside since that's who he's speaking for.

This recommendation will now go to the Santa Barbara City Environmental Review Board. The entire meeting can be viewed here.

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a-1571565859 Sep 19, 2019 07:49 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

All day every day for years this city cries about parking and traffic. Then decide to use a parking lot for a new building. Without a blink. Acting as if a station there will not cause a traffic nightmare. Also, farmers don't live in the city because ag-1 land is not in the city. It has to be in the county. You know, where there's space for farmland.

Factotum Sep 19, 2019 08:05 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

The parking issues are not downtown in the commercial sections. They are the lack of parking in the residential areas - and the elimination of residential parking standards for new denser construction. Cota is the perfect location for the new police station and its impact on any surrounding traffic will be nil.

happy camper Sep 19, 2019 08:19 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

uh, no the farmers are not actually, for the most part, residents of the city. A 4-5 hour/week farmers market vs. a need for a safe and larger 24/7 police headquarters? The City Council made an unpopular but correct decision. There are more options for the Farmers' Market than there are for a better site for the police department. Those protesting on behalf of the Farmers's Market acted entitled; The Farmers Market will survive and thrive in another location, and there are 3-4 years to help make that a positive reality.

yacht rocked Sep 19, 2019 06:52 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Sears site is better used as a government consolidation center, with a smaller remaining downtown site to service the downtown district. One could certainly consolidate all the backoffice functions of many different city offices there, as well as have plenty of room for police, emergency responders, community meeting hall, city vehicle maintenance, parking, and a volunteer-supported walking trail and garden. Sell or repurpose other scattered downtown facilities once moved to Sears site. Think longer-term, SB.

Factotum Sep 19, 2019 11:01 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Since the name of the game is tossing out 13th hour alternatives: Move county administration to the Sears building, convert the downtown county admin high rise building into loft condos and have the four hour, once a week Saturday morning Farmers Market on the downtown County admin lot. How many county admin employees actually need to be right next door to the County Court House? Move them to Sears.

sbsunshine Sep 19, 2019 02:53 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Close off upper State Street to draw Sat. business...lower State Street gets the same attention on Tuesday evenings....spread the love and reinvigorate State Street.

a-1571565859 Sep 21, 2019 03:42 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

The city’s possible location alternatives were a joke. Sears is not for sale and the GM at Earl Warren had no idea the property was being considered, he was never contacted. How can you truly do a study with properties that are not even available? Its too bad the old armory building on upper State St wasn’t considered. This large property has been sitting vacant and run down forever. The Feds need to give it up. A lot of crime is happening in this part of town. That would be a great central location. As others have mentioned smaller satellite beat offices could be places like Milpas and the current location. Those who recommended permanently closing blocks on state street for a pedestrian mall need to realize that has already been done. It’s called Paseo Nuevo and it has been a failed experiment.

letmego Sep 19, 2019 10:10 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

The main problem with this, as far as I can tell, is Saturdays have a lot of other things during the year on state street. Fiesta parade, Halloween parade, Solstice parade, State street mile, etc. What do you do with the farmer's market on those Saturdays? Cancel it? Move it? Or do you find a different location for year round?

happy camper Sep 19, 2019 08:21 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

right! So many smaller cities and towns have vibrant closed off street malls- Boulder, CO, for one comes to mind. Make State Street vibrant with a Saturday Farmer's Market, perhaps moving it closer to De La Guerra Plaza.

Alexblue Sep 19, 2019 08:19 AM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Good idea! The Tuesday farmer's market on State seems to go on with no problems and brings lots of foot traffic to the area. Many evenings we go there, shop and stay to grab something to eat for dinner.

REX OF SB Sep 18, 2019 10:37 PM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Parking lot(s) at SBHS, La Cumbre JHS, La Colina JHS, or lower level La Cumbre Plaza for the Farmers Market. The Farmers Market is not an endangered species.

a-1571565859 Sep 18, 2019 10:41 PM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Downtown - fine. But school parking lots or La Cumbre Plaza absolutely not. A dead mall next to the freeway is NOT a nice location for the farmers market.

Factotum Sep 18, 2019 08:45 PM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

Lanny Ebenstein is not a "local resident". He lives and votes in the county, not the city. That is a material misrepresentation, or inference that he should even be weighing on this city decision. Local gafly, yes. But local resident, as in city resident, no. City made the right choice. Paying to purchase a new location so the Farmers Market can have a four hour use of a city lot made no sense from the very beginning. Time for the Farmers Market to drop their entitlement attitude and start working on making their new location successful. Its future success remains in its product; not its location. But this attitude thing is a real turnoff. Show that you really want to partner with us, not just pout if you don't get your way. Life is like that. Put your big boy green jeans on and get on board. We will work with you to make your new location a success. Start meeting the community and its elected officials decision process half way.

NotReallyDave Sep 18, 2019 08:03 PM
City Council Votes Cota Lot for New Police Station

I don't know why City staff would worry about proper zoning, they have cheated the system other times to get what is desired. Proper procedures have meant nothing to a City with a "staff infection".

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