In the Independent’s November 15 issue’s Letters column, one reader suggests relocation of the S.B. Police Department to the Macy’s structure, but without specifying whether the downtown location or La Cumbre Plaza’s anchor department store at the front of the uptown mall. I would suggest consideration of the current La Cumbre Plaza Sears complex instead: it might well be vacated within a year’s time, or sooner, and available for a long-term lease.
Contingent with this possibility, it would make sense to retain the current PD location with the premise that it would retain one-third of the personnel and functions currently located downtown, while providing space for two-thirds of all activities in a new and spacious uptown branch facility. The complex itself offers a motor-bay repair area, upper-level parking in front of and alongside the building, also a lower-level loading dock in back. There would be ample parking areas for PD staff, department motor vehicles, and for all walk-in customers and clients. There would be lower level parking lot store frontage and indoor space for other Santa Barbara city walk-in functions and services, including duplication of City Hall clerking and processing facilities. The location itself provides nearby freeway entrances north and south, exits on all four sides of the mall, and easy access to Calle Real, Modoc Road, upper State Street, and Hollister Avenue.
If this were to become a reality, Santa Barbara would be saved the expenses of planning, drafting, and construction of an entirely new facility from the ground up in what is already a crowded sector of the downtown district. It would eliminate the need to alter one of two currently viable parking lots, each of which is filled on a daily basis. There might be a need to seek a new public bond issue to finance the added real estate costs; it might also be necessary to seek amendment to the charter that governs La Cumbre Plaza’s operating regulations and requirements. But the crowning asset of this proposal would be access to an uptown venue that would serve the northern, northwest, and northeast portions of the city, located as it is on high ground in the event of climactic waterfront threats.
In a day and age when Internet purchasing has become a way of life, courtesy of Amazon and countless independent online marketers, the future of large chain department stores seems to be losing much of its viability. What other local S.B. real estate facility could offer such a timely package of benefits? At a time when our city hopes to plan proactively for the future, a branch PD location that would fill a pending real estate vacancy appears to offer a solution that is both practical and extraordinarily serendipitous.