In a surprise move expected to save the city at least $500,000 in land acquisition costs, the Culver City Redevelopment Agency has purchased a $4.3-million parcel at Culver Boulevard and Overland Avenue as a potential site for a new city hall and civic center.
The 59-year-old city hall at Culver and Duquesne Avenue is overcrowded and does not meet city and state laws for earthquake and fire safety, energy conservation and access for the handicapped.
The agency has been considering several locations for a new city hall and fire station. The project also may include headquarters for the Culver City Unified School District, a municipal courthouse and county health department offices.
Even though the agency has already purchased the 3.4-acre northwest corner of Culver and Overland, which planning consultants recommended as the most suitable site for a civic center, the agency has not made the selection official.
The agency expects to name the site late in January or early in February, officials said.
After many years of discussion, the agency decided to act on an offer made about two weeks ago by the owner of the Culver-Overland property, Goldrich & Kest Industries.
Goldrich & Kest, seeking to take advantage of capital gains provisions of the 1986 tax law, offered the property to the city Redevelopment Agency for $4.26 million. Redevelopment project manager Susan Berg said the offer would save the city at least $500,000. "We consider this a very good price," she said.
To get the property at this price, the agency had to approve the purchase at its meeting last Monday and escrow had to close Wednesday, before the 1987 federal tax reform legislation took effect, planners said.
The Redevelopment Agency processed the paper work and the buyer and seller agreed on the terms of sale, so the Dec. 31 deadline was met.
"This is a unique opportunity to save the agency a substantial amount of money," said Jody Hall-Esser, assistant executive director of the Redevelopment Agency. In addition to the $500,000, the city also will save "several million dollars (in interest) over the life of the bond issue" she said in her staff report presented at Monday's meeting.
Agency officials said the city is protected in the event that the Redevelopment Agency chooses another site.
The sale agreement contains a clause that allows the agency to sell the property back to Goldrich & Kest by Feb. 17 "at its sole discretion and with absolute certainty" that the property will be purchased back at the same price by the developer.
Should the Redevelopment Agency choose another location for the civic center, the city would lose $8,500 in escrow fees and up to $35,000 for a soil test and geologic analysis.
The analysis is needed because the Culver-Overland property has never been developed, and potential problems such as the ground water level must be analyzed, planners said.
Hall-Esser also said in her report that the property also requires a geologic study because it may be on an inactive earthquake fault. This is fairly common in Southern California, she said, but because a public building is being proposed on the site, the earthquake dangers must be assessed.
The agency voted 4 to 0 to approve the purchase of the commercially zoned property, next to Goldrich & Kest's Studio Villa Estates project, which includes 33 single-family homes and 100 senior citizen apartments.
Consultants recommended that the agency choose the Culver-Overland site because "it presents the greatest range of flexibility for a city hall and other uses (and) provides the greatest accessibility," Hall-Esser said.
The agency has determined that it can afford to finance the city hall and fire station, and that it could acquire a site large enough to accommodate the school district headquarters, county courthouse and health department. But the county and the school district would have to pay their own construction costs, officials said.
The county has indicated that it will not participate unless Culver City's Redevelopment Agency will help pay for the construction, the staff report said.
The school district is analyzing its space needs and has not yet decided whether to participate, according to the report.