I first want to state that I fully support the need for better working conditions for our Police Department. Keeping our community safe is the primary function of government. That being said, maintaining the community’s character and most beloved landmarks is another important function of local governance. The Saturday Farmers market in its current location is such a landmark. It provides the community with a cherished gathering place that brings together all segments of the population, along with providing a valuable source of healthy, locally grown food, something that is a precious resource in an emergency. No other site has been proposed that would not significantly and negatively impact the Farmers Market. Therefore its location should be respected, and Lot C should be taken off the list of potential sites for the new police station.
I don’t have enough information about the inner workings of our police force to fully understand their needs, and how they could best be met. I read the project overview PDF, and it is woefully vague. Specifically, here is the information that ought to be widely shared with the community:
• How many officers and support staff work for the SBPD, and what range of tasks do they perform? Please help us understand what you do and what you need to do it well.
• What does an officer’s day typically look like? How much time is spent on patrol or responding to calls, how much time filing reports at a desk, how much time in court or taking suspects to jail? What policing needs are currently being unmet, and where do most of them originate? There is no mention in the Project overview PDF of the need for officers to deal with the policing needs generated by addiction and mental health issues, but we all know these are huge issues. What percentage of police calls issue from mental health and addiction problems, and how are they currently being handled? Knowing more about all this would go a long way toward helping us assess which solutions best meets the needs of SBPD and the community it serves.
• Does SBPD need to have all its operations in one giant location, or would neighborhood police stations best serve the needs of the community? What if we had a central administrative building located near the courthouse, which could be done by renovating the current location, plus satellite stations in high call volume neighborhoods? Would this not make our community safer, while also increasing the number of potential sites? I tend to think that law abiding residents of neighborhoods where gang activity is a problem would welcome closer oversight.
• If a central building is best, City Lot 11 would seem like a great location, literally steps from the downtown bar scene and other policing needs. I understand that it has been ruled out due to the slim but possible threat of minimal flooding. Is there no way to design the building and its access to mitigate this risk and make the lot useable? The commuter lot that has been at the top of the list is barely half a block away. How is that lot considered out of the flood zone, but Lot 11 isn’t? I have lived in Santa Barbara since 1983. Never have I seen Lot 11 or Cota Street be inaccessible.
• Has the city made a serious effort to negotiate with News-Press owner Wendy McCaw for the News-Press building and parking lot, or could eminent domain be used to claim it? I know that no one in our city leadership is on Wendy’s list of close friends, but the building is very much underused, its location is perfect, and everyone has a price, including Ms. McCaw.
• If it turns out that one central building is indeed best for the community and that no downtown site can be found, then either the Earl Warren Showgrounds or the abandoned Sears Building offer all the needed space without impacting treasured community assets. Both are underused, and located within easy reach of downtown and of the County Jail.
I thank you for the opportunity to comment, and for your service to the city we all love.