San Luis Obispo City Council is considering replacing the San Luis Obispo Police Station with a $52 million Public Safety Center designed with a focus on community policing and sustainability.
This multi-million dollar project would replace the 52-year-old station that currently stands on Walnut Street, stripping it down and rebuilding it to include an emergency operations center and a community room, according to the report assembled by RRM Design Group.
The report notes the current station’s “deficiencies” which include: seismic concerns and foundation cracking, limited space for emergency services that delay response times and lack of space for community engagement.
Now, the goal is to replace the existing station with a Public Safety Center.
The community room is the first improvement listed in the section detailing the new facility attributes. The report called it a “collaborative environment where police and other community groups can come together on initiatives to better police, build community relations and improve policing through collaboration.”
The community room could also be used as shelter in the case of a natural disaster.
Other improvements listed include a more sustainable design that integrates solar power and making the building all-electric and creating higher-quality workspaces for staff.
Some residents thought this new building was a no-brainer, citing the nationwide discussion of changing public safety approaches.
Other members of the community call this proposal a waste of funds. Katie Rose, speaking on behalf of Abolitionist Action of the Central Coast, said city police should not be getting any more money because their budget is already the largest in the city.
The San Luis Obispo Police Department budget is at $19.14 million this year, out of the city’s $202 million budget.
Others cited the rise in homelessness in San Luis Obispo and asked why the money would not go to help build affordable housing.
Former Air Force worker Chris Zotovich said he feels that the new public safety approach could help homelessness, as he feels current policing is not equipped to effectively deal with homeless people.
Councilmember Andy Pease reminded those in attendance that just because they spend a lot of money on one issue does not mean that they neglect other issues in the city.
If approved, the expected start for this project is 2025, with three to four years of designing and finalizing of plans leading up to it.
The council members seemed to be on board with this timeline, but noted they wanted to hear more community input first.