The Santa Barbara City Council approved spending $2.3 million to move the city’s 9-1-1 communication center from the dungeon-like basement of the Figueroa Street police station and relocate it to the upstairs offices adjoining the Granada parking garage. Precipitating the move was concern over the inadequate seismic integrity of the police station, built back in the 1950s. In the event of a serious quake, there’s serious doubt the communication center — which handles about 38,000 police calls a year, as well as calls to the fire department — would remain functional. “We could set up tents in MacKenzie Park and be fine,” said department spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood, “but the communication center is essential. Without it, the effects of a disaster would be compounded tremendously.”
Harwood added that the center currently serves as a statewide communication hub and suggested that its loss would have consequences beyond the local orbit. Because the new location is not as seismically sound as a new hospital or school, it cannot be deemed a permanent replacement. But as a practical matter, it will remain a perpetually “temporary” solution, at least until the funding is found to build a new police station. Although most councilmembers regard that as a high priority, the cost is exceptionally high, and there’s little hope of funding for the foreseeable future. Building the new center should not be tricky, but relocating the communication equipment without a break in service is much dicier, described in the staff report as “delicate and complex.” For that reason, the city hired a vendor specializing in such tasks.