A rendering of the proposed Santa Barbara Police Station at the corner of Cota and Santa Barbara streets | Credit: Courtesy Cearnal Collective

The Development Plan allowing  for the construction of the Santa Barbara Police Department’s new three-story, $92 million headquarters was unanimously approved by the city’s Planning Commission last week, bringing the long-awaited and often-contested project closer to the finish line.

Architects from Santa Barbara-based Cearnal Collective presented the latest plans, which have already passed through the bulk of the city review process — with the location, size, and concept design of the project already approved — and earned a generally positive response from the five commissioners present at the meeting.

Much of the earlier public pushback against the new station surrounded the proposed removal of the 1.6-acre Cota Commuter Lot, which is home to the Santa Barbara Farmers’ Market every Saturday. But city planners and the project’s designers eventually agreed that the location is the best-case scenario for a central police headquarters. 

“It became quite clear from the very beginning that it needed to be within downtown,” said Cearnal Collective architect Jeff Hornbuckle. The majority of emergency calls come from downtown, he said, and if the station were located anywhere else, it would require a separate substation. Currently, police operations and services are spread throughout several locations.

Planning commissioners left comments suggesting small tweaks to the building’s tower structure to better match the downtown Santa Barbara aesthetic, and asking if more solar panels could be added to improve the project’s overall environmental impact. Previously, the city’s Architectural Board of Review requested fewer solar panels for a cleaner look.

The project is expected to go through another ABR review for final design approval, though an official date has not yet been set.

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