New Santa Barbara Police Station Narrowed to Two Options

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.


Written by Anonymous

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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..

  7. 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??

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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