The Santa Barbara Police Dept. building is in dangerous disrepair yet struggles to obtain the funding to undergo the necessary renovations.
The building — constructed in 1959 — does not meet current earthquake standards and suffers from electrical and plumbing problems. The Santa Barbara City Council recently toured the building to confirm the poor conditions, but a strict budget allows little flexibility for rebuild or renovation.
According to Santa Barbara City Councilmember Dale Francisco, the decaying state of the station is detrimental to law enforcement’s ability to perform their jobs.
“I think [the building] is beyond the point of renovation,” Francisco said. “There are problems with the plumbing, heating and AC. It is primitive, it is dark and it is dank. If you name a problem it has got it.”
Francisco said completely reconstructing the station is a costly expense, but a necessary one considering the risks associated with ignoring the structure’s current condition.
“[Replacing the building] will be tough,” Francisco said. “It is expensive; one of the estimates of constructing a new building and parking structure was $47 million. This would need voters’ support … to go along with some kind of tax to support it. If people knew how bad it was inside, we could build a case for it.”
Despite the station’s current state, Lt. Paul McCaffrey from the Santa Barbara Police Dept. said there is little escaping the constraints of their tight budget.
“Do we wish our budget was larger?” McCaffrey said. “Yes, but we need to work within our limitations. We are pretty limited in how we can raise money. It comes from the city government and they are the ones that control the purse strings.”
And although renovations to the current facility would be expensive, Francisco said replacing the building entirely would be more cost-effective than incremental repairs.
“We have spent millions recently doing emergency upgrades to heating and AC, but I don’t think it is worth spending the money,” Francisco said. “The building is so difficult to remodel. [The city] is improving a building with a fatal flaw, it cannot withstand major earthquakes, and any money spent on it now is throwing it away.”
Francisco said moving forward with any type of improvement or replacement must be done carefully because of the possibility of a negative public reaction to a new tax.
“I would want to make sure that if we put something on the ballot that we do not do it until we let people know about the issue,” Francisco said. “We do not want to rush. There is not enough [money] in the general fund, and we will need to raise revenue for a period of 20 years to pay something like that off.”