Members of Santa Barbara’s City Council face enormous and unprecedented challenges in the areas of climate change, population increase, water shortages and food security. All of these must be addressed in their decision regarding where to locate the new Santa Barbara Police station.
On Tuesday, September 17, city staff will recommend to the City Council that the Cota Street Commuter Lot be used to build the new police station. Everyone agrees that a new police station is much needed and long overdue. The greatest challenge has been deciding where to build it.
There is another major challenge facing the city: Santa Barbara County farmland, historically used for growing food, is increasingly being converted to cannabis and wine and production. This loss of farmland is the single biggest immediate threat to food farmers in Santa Barbara County. Compound that with rising costs of water, labor shortages and escalating environmental unpredictability, and the pressures on farmers growing food for local residents increase exponentially.
The Santa Barbara Saturday Farmers’ Market at the Cota Street Lot has consistently provided the highest quality fruits, vegetables, and meats to thousands of local residents while also creating a safe, vibrant and engaging community meeting place. The Saturday market is a place where our young people can find meaningful, enjoyable work and learn employment skills that will serve them well their entire lives. It’s a delicate balance of two separate and precarious stakeholder populations – farmers and customers. Any decrease in one inevitably leads to a decrease in the other, creating a downward spiral that could ultimately lead to the end of the Saturday Farmers Market as we know and love it.
In contrast, the two populations served by the Santa Barbara Police Department are both stable and guaranteed. The people who work at the Police Department will continue to work there regardless of its location and the people who need to visit the Police Department will also go there regardless of its location.
Santa Barbara City Council must choose a site for the new Police Station that adequately serves the needs of the Police Department and meets the needs of Santa Barbara locals and the farmers who provide them with the food and community they deserve. Finding an alternate site for the police station while keeping the Saturday Farmers Market at the Cota Street Commuter Lot may not be the easiest option, but it is certainly the best option.