Proposed new police station likely to push out farmers market

Chris Schemet (pictured) sells mussels at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. He rallied with others at De La Guerra Plaza to oppose building the police station at the Cota Street location. Photo credit: Carolina Starin

The Santa Barbara City Council voted to begin environmental reviews for the Cota Street lot as its preferred site for a new $80 million police station. The commuter parking lot has been the Saturday morning home of the Santa Barbara farmers market for more than 35 years.

The council heard nearly five hours of heated testimony from city officials and members of the public. Supporters of the farmers market held a rally in front of City Hall to oppose the police station’s relocation. They feel there is no other site suitable for the farmers market, and that moving it will disrupt its client base.

“I think a lot of people in the room here would like to live in a city where our officials recognize and value the farmers market and what it does,” said Noey Turk, president of the market’s board of directors.

The existing police station was built in 1959, and multiple studies have concluded that the current site is no longer a suitable location. Moving and rebuilding the station has been delayed for nearly 30 years, and proponents of the location say that the Cota Lot is best suited for ensuring community safety.

“The Cota commuter parking lot is large enough, and it is in the main call area,” said Brad Hess, the principal project manager for the City of Santa Barbara. “And our preliminary environmental review shows it to have the least potentially significant environmental impacts.