New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

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New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options
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Source: City of Santa Barbara

Site Selection Process for New Police Station Draws to a Close

In response to requests at recent public meetings, City staff have released a detailed explanation of the site selection process for the new Santa Barbara Police Station. This article, available on the project’s webpage, describes selection criteria and the sites that were considered for viability. The selection process has resulted in two site options; the final site recommendation will be presented to City Council next year. The community is encouraged to visit to view the article, as well as detailed site criteria checklists and more project resources.

To access the article, click here [or read below].

Recently the City completed a series of three public outreach meetings to inform the public of the site selection process for the new Police Station. While the meetings were well-attended and informative, it became clear that the information provided at those meetings should be more widely distributed, with the goal of describing the complex, thorough process the City is undergoing to make the best site decision for the community and the Police Department.

The key goals for the new Police Station are:

  • Enable major police working groups to (once again) be housed in a single, secure, seismically resilient building.
  • Allow expansions and enhancements to SBPD’s citizen volunteer programs.
  • Allow new public and in-service training opportunities (CPR classes, neighborhood watch formation meetings, etc.)
  • Streamline coordination/communications between key policing services (i.e., Investigations and Patrol in the same building).
  • Support the delivery of 24/7/365 services from a highly sustainable building.
  • Provide a modern, barrier-free environment, which will promote additional opportunities for staff recruitment/retention. 


The Police Station project began in June 2018 with a “Programming” phase, which collected pertinent data about the Police Department’s needs through organizational charts, interviews, and surveys. Based on this information, a site criteria checklist was created as the filter through which potential sites were to be evaluated for viability. The criteria included:

  • Location
  • Lot Size
  • Lot Shape
  • Zoning
  • Height Limitation
  • Ownership
  • Flood Zone
  • Surrounding Uses
  • Setbacks
  • Seismic Issues
  • Water Table
  • Environmental
  • Archaeological
  • Utility/Fiber Proximity
  • Charter Issues/Requirements
  • Current Uses
  • Access
  • Easements


Four particular factors became more crucial as City staff began to narrow down the possibilities:

Ownership: Existing City ownership of the site is critical to avoid the high cost of a purchase. Measure C funds, which will be used to finance the Police Station, are extremely limited and must be allocated to a number of competing priority projects in the City. While the Police Station is a high priority, much of the Measure C funding will go toward streets and infrastructure improvements throughout Santa Barbara.
Downtown Corridor: The importance of locating the Police Station in the Downtown corridor is illustrated by the following: 1) Most of the calls for police service are in the Downtown area, and while response time is not directly correlated to station location, the efficiency of patrol shift changes and proximity to the areas of patrol is key; 2) Officers are needed at the Courthouse as part of their duties, so proximity to the Courthouse is important for efficiency and time; and 3) The Police Station needs to be available to all members of the public as a community resource; therefore, it should be centrally located to serve all areas equally.

Flood Zone: The new Police Station cannot be located within any FEMA-designated flood zone, 100 year or 500 year. The City also will not locate the Police Station in an area that has been preliminarily identified as vulnerable to sea level rise. The combination of flood and sea level rise vulnerability eliminates many parts of the City as viable locations.

Size: The site must be large enough to accommodate a 72,000 square foot building and a parking structure that can park 252 cars. Both need to be secure facilities. Some public parking will be accommodated on site, in addition to nearby public parking lots and street parking.


These specific parameters make site selection more challenging. Some sites that seem like good possibilities don’t, in fact, work. Below is a list of sites the public has asked about that were evaluated and determined not viable.

Private Property:


Sears - La Cumbre Plaza

Not in City's ownership, Not Downtown

Macy's - Paseo Nuevo

Not in City's ownership, Building and parking not viable

Verizon Building - Canon Perdido/Ortega

Not in City's ownership, Cost prohibitive to renovate

Armory Property - Canon Perdido/Nopal

Not in City's ownership, Located in Flood Zone

SB News Press - 715 Anacapa St.

Not in City's ownership, Cost prohibitive to renovate

Saks Building - Carrillo/State St.

Not in City's ownership, Secured by another entity


Other Government Property:


National Guard at McKenzie Park

Not in City's ownership, Not Downtown

Earl Warren Showgrounds

Not in City's ownership, Located in County, Not Downtown

US Post Office - Anacapa/Canon Perdido

Not in City's ownership, Property not large enough


City Property:


Parks & Recreation/Facilities Property

Located in Flood Zone

Municipal Golf Course

Not Downtown, Requires major change to golf course

Lot 11 - Haley & Anacapa

Located in 500 Year Flood Zone

Carrillo Commuter Lot

Size is insufficient, Creek setback, Access issues

Alameda Park

Historic Park, Requires vote to change use, Mature Landscaping

Existing Police Station

Size is insufficient for new station

Lot 3 - Figueroa & Chapala

Requires back of house access, insecure

Essential services buildings like a Police Station have very specific requirements for construction and safety that must be met. California building codes have been updated many times since the original Police Station was constructed, particularly seismic specifications. There are no privately owned buildings in Santa Barbara that can be converted to a Police Station meeting today’s requirements. This includes the Macy’s and Sears properties, which are often suggested as options by the community. Though at face value these currently under-utilized buildings seem like good options, they are not under City ownership, not offered for sale, and would be extremely costly to demolish and rebuild. Both properties are also oversized for the Police Department’s needs.


This site selection process is complicated and thorough. It begins by objectively reviewing and considering the many variables of a property’s viability. If a site is viable, it is reviewed for scope and scale through massing studies and layouts. If at that point the site makes sense, it is considered an option. The two locations that meet these rigorous standards are the sites of the Cota Commuter Lot and the Louise Lowry Davis/1235 Teen Center/Spencer Adams Park.

While the final decision will rest with the City Council, it is City staff’s job to ensure the recommendation to City Council is the best decision for the community, meets the needs of the Police Department, resolves any resulting displacement (such as Lawn Bowlers or Farmer’s Market), and provides the community with a much-needed resource.

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ZeroHawk Dec 03, 2018 12:37 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

glad the city is going to piss away more of our tax dollars. the SBPD HQ doesn't need to be downtown, but the PD themselves do... how about not taking away our farmers market that's been there 30 years. How about finding a new place for this and not screwing up more of what we still hold onto here. There is very little shopping downtown and the farmers market is a HUGE draw for locals and tourists. Hitting the city right in the wallet again to make a new police station is another move towards killing the retail in this town.

Factotum Dec 04, 2018 08:29 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Why not move the Farmers Market to the Louise Lowry parking lot for this one morning a week event? That makes the most sense. No one is talking about ending this Saturday morning event. Just moving it to a far better location uptown. Louise Lowery is close to businesses and restaurants and city parking lots (Ensemble and Granada Theater lots). The present Cota lot is not even close to other businesses. The uptown Theater Arts District could use the early morning boost in foot traffic on these Saturday mornings. Put the police station in the Cota Lot - more room for expanded services there with the least disruption to the surrounding residential neighborhood.

yacht rocked Dec 02, 2018 04:42 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Sure, put a police station downtown, but no reason to put HQ downtown. I love the idea of the Sears building being the HQ, parking, helipad, motor pool, community meeting space, training rooms, heck you could even put a firing range in the basement and not disturb anyone. Add a community garden space to appease grumblers. C'mon SB, get out of the rut.

a-1571049319 Dec 05, 2018 01:05 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

So what will the old police building bring if put on the market? The idea that the city cannot buy a new location out of the high price downtown area and then pay it off by selling the existing high price property is just hidden from us. Like playing a street card game in NYC. We are being shuffled and deceived.

Factotum Dec 04, 2018 08:31 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

The city has money - they just don't choose to allocate it for critical capital projects. Instead, they always cry poor. There is money; there just is no will to spend it properly on projects that benefit city residents.

Roger Dec 03, 2018 08:50 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

I'd rather have the police department Downtown myself right next to Vera Cruz Park and right behind all those beautiful downtown bars. What a beautiful site after Happy Hour to see one of those beautiful black and whites in your rear view mirror we can even have police cars that have landing pads on their roofs for drones...

Roger Dec 02, 2018 01:05 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

I'm getting the idea that some of you guys don't want the police department in the Down Town Area like in the tourist area where all the drinking and trouble occurs...I wonder WHY that is?

salsa guy Dec 02, 2018 12:26 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Why isn't the city looking at the old National Guard property at the corner of Los Positas and State? Close to the 101 and Sheriffs station. The Cota location is not viable for future expansion. Trust the local city planners, I think not. Think tiny homes at Carrillo and Bath.

a-1571049319 Dec 02, 2018 09:35 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

*parked in Sears parking lot during the Thomas Fire. Also, it would be out of sea level rising blue line. AND, helicopters could land there, if they made a dedicated helicopter landing pad.

a-1571049319 Dec 02, 2018 09:33 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

The Sears Building would be out of flood area, and easier to defend in a wildfire. If you look at Youtube videos, many police cars were parked in the Sears parking lot. Also, the lower level of Sears could be enclosed (it's sorta like a basement) for any future events that would require staying underground. It could be a shelter for the public as well.

BondJamesBond Dec 02, 2018 07:25 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

So many empty buildings around town... there should be dozens of options! Why not sub stations to alleviate over crowding? Earth quake retrofitting of existing facility is the best and cheapest alternative. Use the money saved to increase law enforcement of existing laws. Where will the money come from to construct a big new unneeded building??

Roger Dec 02, 2018 05:43 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

I think Edhat ought to have their own Police force you guys could get yourselves some cute little uniforms with Edhat badges buy any building you want just leave me out of it I don't want to be an Edhat police officer..

a-1571049319 Dec 02, 2018 02:26 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

The Sears location is good for accessibility and additional uses, such as youth Police Activity League. The old Milpas Post office is the best location for proximity to majority of homeless, day laborers, residents and tourists. Milpas needs to be better served with police presence, a large City parking lot, and more new multi-story housing. Milpas is waiting to be re-developed with upgrades.

CoastWatch Dec 01, 2018 09:12 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

The Sears facility is hands down the best option- The Rutherford's own the property and would totally work a deal with the City- The SBPD would be able to have their motorpool on site with tons of parking- IN FACT, the California Highway Patrol is also looking for a location in Santa Barbara and they could co-habitate, The facility would be PERFECT for both agencies- but EGO's get in the way and this will never happen- much to the costly detriment of the taxpaying public... Disgusting.

Potif Dec 02, 2018 03:33 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

However, the police have a better idea of what THEY NEED to function well than the city planners would. And, much better than an average citizen. I wonder how much police input is being regarded in this case. In Honolulu, Hawaii, for a long time the police station was originally an old Sears building.

a-1571049319 Dec 02, 2018 11:35 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

I prefer the city planners to the cops for this job. Or does our love affair with 'first responders' now include even this? And, yes, the city planners have wisdom which is the result of study, training and experience in this specfic subject. I would not hire them to make arrests, I would not hire police to design my town.

Factotum Dec 01, 2018 11:31 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

What to do with the present police station site? Take the extra pay premium now awarded police officers so they can "live in Santa Barbara" and create a multi-story housing complex downtown for them instead. Which guarantees they actually do live in Santa Barbara, and not bank that premium pay and live elsewhere out of town anyway. Like Solvang and Ventura.

RHS Dec 01, 2018 10:14 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

This list is absurd. These parameters are set by the desires of the police, not the cost benefit to the community. There is no reason that the station has to be in downtown except that the police brass want easy lobby access to the elected officials and city manager. Why not the old post office on Milpas? Why not some space in the shopping center at Las Positas and Modoc (maybe because it is Towbes')? Certainly the city can afford to buy a nice piece of property outside the civic center if it sold the existing site.

a-1571049319 Dec 01, 2018 10:05 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Regarding Macy's La Cumbre, I was recently told that they are doing exceptionally well and considering remodeling the store. As a property owner on Anapamu Street directly across from the Davis parking lot, I fully support that location for the SBPD building. We have a tremendous number of drug dealers who work the corner of Anapamu and De la Vina and hang out in the bushes and ivy in front of the lawn bowling center. It's a great location with currently entrances on three sides. And that lot is almost always empty.

a-1571049319 Dec 01, 2018 01:22 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

So nice to have the community spend millions of dollars on a facility as a convenience to you and your profit. Maybe putting the station on Milpas would accomplish the same for someone else?

Factotum Dec 01, 2018 11:28 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Trim the bushes around the Lawn Bowling site creating these hiding spaces and put in less friendly landscaping plants that discourage lounging. Why haven't the police already targeted this known crime area?

Luvaduck Dec 01, 2018 09:08 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

I read in the "why not" section the reason for not using La Cumbre Shopping Mall, but with Macy's on it's last legs and Sears going out w/a garage on its site, easy parking, city bus service, 101, State Street and Calle Real immediately available, can't something be worked out? The shopping center is slowly dying. I'd think the owners would be willing to overcharge the city and get out from under it. Or maybe "imminent domain"? (I don't know how to spell it let alone the specifics, but some of you do, I'm sure.)

yacht rocked Dec 01, 2018 07:46 AM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

1. Don't understand why the City has to already own the property. Why is property purchase off the table? Presumably the City can sell the old police station property and/or other unused city property to pay back purchase cost. 2. Why not look at separating the police functions that have to be downtown from the ones that don't. For example, there's no need to have admin, HR, finance staff downtown, no need to have space for CPR and community training downtown. No need to have maintenance garage and storage downtown. Reduce the size, scope, and scale of the downtown station, and move the rest further out.

Factotum Nov 30, 2018 08:41 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Put the Farmers Market into the heart of the downtown business district. Use the Louise Lowery parking lot for this once a week event. Lots of parking and three pedestrian entrances and easy drive in access for the vendors. Must prettier setting than the Cota lot, and directly connected to the downtown restaurant ground zero and theater and arts district. Farm to Fork at the new location for the Saturday Farmers Market. Perfect tie in for the surrounding restaurants.

a-1571049319 Nov 30, 2018 08:21 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

I don't see why it couldn't be built in a 500-year flood zone; surely, it could be safeguarded, as, no doubt, are coastal facilities around the country. If they choose the farmers market site, that will be a big hit to the community, no matter where the market goes. (If they try to put it in the LLDavis parking lot, there's very little neighborhood parking in that area, especially compared with the Cota lot. But no doubt that won't matter --- cops will prevail over public health and pleasures. Hard to understand why a city of less than 100,000 needs such a big station with such a large secured garage. I'm curious: what does the larger Santa Maria, with a lot of crime, have for a police station?

Factotum Nov 30, 2018 07:48 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Turn the Castillo/Carrillo Commuter parking lot into a new Lawn Bowling Center. A great way to welcome people into our city - active seniors and green open space for recreation. Ooops, it is next to the freeway. Unhealthy.

Factotum Nov 30, 2018 07:45 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Lawn bowling goes on through out the week. Farmers Market meets only for a few hours once a week. Farmer Market can easily be moved to the Louise Lowery Parking lot which does not get used on Saturday morning.

sbmh2015 Nov 30, 2018 07:04 PM
New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

Lawn bowling is included in one of the options. The reommendation will be for Cota lot. In order to use the other option(teen center/lawn bowling, etc) , it has to go for city wide vote. That will significantly delay the project and would most likely lose in a vote. Therefore, only option is Cota.

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