SOUTH PASADENA — The City Council has decided to build a new civic center on the existing City Hall site, bringing to an apparent end two years of acrimonious debate and controversy.
By a 3-2 vote, the council last week approved a plan to remodel part of the current City Hall on Mission Street, erect new City Council chambers and construct buildings to replace the police and fire facilities now at Mission and Mound streets.
Councilman Ted Shaw, who had previously favored another site, reversed his position and cast the swing vote. He joined Councilmen Lee Prentiss and Robert Wagner in approving the plan, which was recommended by a special City Hall committee of seven community members and chaired by Prentiss. Mayor Sam Knowles and Councilman David Margrave dissented.
'The People Have Spoken'
"Regardless of how I feel, the people have spoken," said Shaw, who when he was mayor last year appointed the committee. "The point now is expediency. We must move ahead."
The city at one time had planned to build a civic center on property it purchased in 1981 three blocks away on El Centro Avenue. But opponents argued that would cost as much as $2.5 million more than rebuilding the old City Hall complex. The opposition placed the issue on the ballot last year and voters overwhelmingly rejected the El Centro plan.
City Manager John Bernardi reported at last week's council meeting that the city could afford to build on either site by selling whichever property was not used. He said reconstruction of the existing facilities will cost about $2.6 million. The construction cost for the El Centro site was estimated at nearly $3.9 million. Most of the higher construction cost for El Centro could have been made up by selling the more valuable City Hall property, Bernardi noted.
Two Wanted Issue on Ballot
Margrave and Knowles, who still favor creation of a civic center complex on El Centro, said they wanted the issue placed on the ballot again, but their suggestion was rejected. They contend that the old City Hall site is better suited for commercial development and that municipal facilities should be concentrated at the El Centro site, which is across from the library and other city-owned buildings.
"They (opponents of the El Centro site) told the community we were going to waste $2.5 million," said Margrave. "What was put to the voters was an outright lie. That (the civic center) doesn't belong in the downtown area. What belongs in the downtown area is shops."
Wagner, an outspoken opponent of the El Centro site who rode the wave of community sentiment against it to a City Council victory last year, said he is pleased by the decision to rebuild on the current site.
"It's a better plan because we're getting more building for our buck," Wagner said in an interview.
Prentiss, whose City Hall committee studied the project with Los Angeles architects Peter de Bretteville and Stefanos Polyzoides, said he expects work to start in February and be completed next December.
"This is a better building," said Prentiss, who originally favored the El Centro proposal. "We need to heal the wounds in South Pasadena. The sooner we get started, the sooner the wounds will heal."