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Construction to Block Rexford Drive for 2 Years

November 27, 1986|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

A key block of Rexford Drive, a heavily traveled north-south commuter route, will be closed for more than two years starting Monday to allow for construction of a new library and police station for the city of Beverly Hills.

"We're recommending that motorists find other routes," said Lt. Jim Smith, traffic division commander for the Beverly Hills Police Department. "It's up to them to determine what's suitable for them."

Most drivers probably will opt to follow Crescent Drive or Beverly Drive on their way through the city, Smith said. Doheny Road and Palm Drive also are expected to be more heavily traveled.

11,000 Cars a Day

Rexford Drive carries about 11,000 cars on weekdays. It is one of the principal feeders for Coldwater Canyon Drive, which connects Beverly Hills and nearby areas on the Westside with North Hollywood.

"Probably some people will even choose not to come over the hill on Coldwater if it turns out to be a big problem," said Mark Scott, the city's director of environmental services. "But I don't think it's going to be a bigger problem than that."

When construction begins next week, the southernmost lane of Santa Monica Boulevard will be taken up by a fence. Traffic will be slowed as drivers are forced to jog around the obstacle, Smith said.

The closure of the street is only the first of several changes planned as work begins on the final stage of the city's new Civic Center.

Already, city crews have removed the left-turn pocket that once allowed westbound traffic on Santa Monica boulevard to turn south onto Rexford Drive.

In March, the Beverly Hills Public Library will be moving to temporary quarters on Foothill Road, "lock, stock and book barrel," in the words of librarian Michael Cart.

He said he expects the library to be closed for no more than a week during the move.

About 10% of the library's 180,000 books will be in storage during the temporary stay in a city-owned building that once belonged to Litton Industries, Cart said.

However, he said, even the volumes that are in storage will be available upon request.

Until the move, access to the current library building will be through the Civic Center parking structure on Civic Center Drive. A walkway will connect the parking structure with the entrance to the library, which faces the block of Rexford Drive that will be closed to traffic.

When the new library is complete, there will be more than twice the current 33,000 square feet of floor space. Capacity will increase to 250,000 volumes and automated systems will keep track of books.

"All of our service areas will be greatly expanded," Cart said. "There will be much more in the way of public seating areas and we will generally have more space for people."

Other city departments also will be moving to the Foothill Road facility to allow for renovation of the current City Hall, which will be linked to the new police and library structure by a bridge over Rexford Drive.

Scott said an 11-seat electric cart will run between City Hall and the temporary offices to carry mail, city workers and members of the public.

The new, three-story police building will house facilities that now are crammed into one wing of the existing City Hall, which was completed in 1932.

Although those quarters were palatial compared to the Beverly Hills' first police and fire headquarters, which were located in a private home in 1915, Police Chief Marvin D. Iannone said construction of a larger facility is overdue.

"What we have right now is a facility that is not earthquake-safe," he said. "It clearly is too small and it is certainly no place from which to manage an emergency operation."

Although the movie "Beverly Hills Cop" featured a police command center that resembled the headquarters for a NASA space shot, the reality is much more modest.

Communications personnel work out of a space not much larger than a bus shelter, detectives interview suspects in a closet, police officers do their weightlifting and stationary bicycle-riding in a bathroom and women's dressing quarters are in a portable building parked in a driveway.

"Police officers need more than that," Iannone said. "I think the city of Beverly Hills is blessed with a very fine Police Department, and what has to occur now is for the officers to have a facility that is state of the art from which to work."

Work on the final phase of the Civic Center project was approved earlier this month, when the City Council accepted a bid of $43,625,692 offered by the J. A. Jones company of Charlotte, N.C.

Earlier work included an already completed parking structure and a new headquarters for the Fire Department that is scheduled to go into use early next year. Total construction cost of the new Civic Center has been put at about $78 million.

Plans once included a theater, but the cultural facility was dropped last year after concerns were voiced about the scale of the project.

Controversy about the cost of the Civic Center continued, however, culminating in the 3-1 vote on Nov. 4 to go ahead with the final phase.

Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum had argued that the center project should be scaled down further in order to guarantee that the city will have enough funds to support the financially troubled Beverly Hills Unified School District.

But other members said that the schools would be provided for and that there was an overwhelming need for the new police and library facilities as designed.

Completion is expected in 1989.

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