The first round of plans for Santa Barbara’s new police station drew a mixed bag of reaction Monday from the city’s Architectural Board of Review (ABR). While boardmember Richard Six praised the “very successful” design, Dennis Whelan said its “brutally modernist” aesthetic didn’t fit with Santa Barbara’s “Mediterranean tradition.” Kevin Moore said parts struck him as “austere” and “a little cold.”
Whelan also worried that the main entrance to the new $80 million station ― slated for the Cota Street commuter lot and forcing the relocation of the Saturday-morning farmers’ market ― felt hidden from view and would be only accessible by car from a one-way street. It seemed at odds with the “qualities of openness and service to the community” that the police department claims it wants to project, he said.
Lead architect Brian Cearnal said his firm was inspired by the city’s downtown post office “and how it reflects its time and place. We want this building to do the same.” He said designers sought to incorporate “distinctly Santa Barbara detailing while meeting the modern program for the police department” and infuse the site with sustainability elements, including green roofs, bioretention planters, and solar panels. Of the 44 existing trees at the lot, 35 would be removed, Cearnal explained. Twenty-six new trees would be planted.
The ABR concluded the mass, size, and bulk of the project, which would reach a maximum height of 53 feet, were generally acceptable, but its members stressed that the devil was in the details. “It’s a great project,” said David Black, “but it’s definitely going to take some looking at.” Whelan couldn’t help but also question the overall constraints of the Cota lot. “The site plan is completely full and leaves no room for inevitable expansion,” he said. “I think it is rather unfortunate that after all of the site selection we came up with this site that just barely fits.”
The project heads to the Planning Commission on September 10 for further review and the opportunity for public comment.
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