With negotiations for a new lease heating up between the City of Santa Barbara and the Westside Boys & Girls Club, it appears all but certain that city police will soon begin operating a substation there, similar to the one now open at the Franklin Community Center. The new digs would provide a place for officers assigned to the Westside to fill out paperwork, and, more importantly, park themselves and their cars in a highly visible spot conducive to greater community interaction.
Given the Boys & Girls club is located in Bohnett Park — long the focus of community concern both real and imagined — the police presence might allay some parental concerns about the safety of the facility. The club’s 50-year lease with City Hall expired this August, but concerns over the high rate of leadership turnover gave city Parks and Rec officials significant pause. (In the past year, the Westside has had three different directors, as has its parent organization, United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County.)
Initially, City Hall offered the club a three-year lease; the club countered by demanding 25; the city is now offering five. The matter went before the council in closed session this Tuesday, but no action was reported. United director Dianna Starr Langley said her organization has been forced to weather the same financial storms afflicting all nonprofits. She insisted all the youth-serving programs remain intact and that 4,500 kids throughout the county are still getting adult supervision from 140 full- and part-time employees at bargain-basement rates.
City Parks chief Nancy Rapp expressed concern about the level of turnover but also noted that in the past 18 months, the level of supervision at the Westside campus has improved, as has care of the facilities. In addition to the police presence at the Westside club, Rapp said she’s looking forward to the installation of a Food Bank distribution center there, as well as a health information and screening outpost of the Neighborhood Community Clinic.