Culver City officials are taking a second look at the site they picked for a new City Hall in response to complaints by residents, including some former council members, who said the city did not seek enough public comment before making its decision.
Some critics said they oppose the site on Overland Avenue that the Redevelopment Agency approved because it is outside of the downtown area. The new city hall ought to be built downtown to stimulate development there, they said.
The agency, made up of the five City Council members, rejected two downtown sites when it chose the 3.4-acre parcel at Overland Avenue and Culver Boulevard, a half-mile southwest of downtown, on Feb. 9.
"We're almost abandoning an area that should be developed," said former Councilman A. Ronald Perkins. "In effect we are moving Culver City into an area where all the good places and good people are, and away from an area that needs it."
He said that the new city hall would help "the surrounding (businesses) in the downtown area that need a shot in the arm."
"It seems to be good planning to use a civic center to upgrade an area," said Ed Little, who served on the council from 1966 to 1970. "The site selected is not in need of upgrading."
Dorothy Eldan Harris, a planning commissioner, said the agency should reconsider its decision.
"If the public response is overwhelming . . . there may very well be a move to reconsider," Harris said, "because I don't think that any of them want to look like they made their minds up too quickly and can't change their minds."
The agency staff sent out notices and held three public meetings before choosing the site, but staff members said few residents showed up. In response to recent criticism, the agency scheduled an April 27 public hearing to answer questions and discuss its reasons for choosing the Overland site.
The agency on Feb. 9 voted to purchase the Overland parcel from Goldrich and Kest, a Culver City-based development company, for $4.3 million. The property is west of Lorimar Studios, north of Veterans Memorial Auditorium and east of Studio Estates, a condominium development.
Agency members said they chose the Overland site primarily because the property is large enough to include the new city hall along with a proposed administration office for the Culver City Unified School District and a new municipal courthouse.
Community Development Director Jody Hall-Esser told the agency that building the project on the Overland parcel would cause fewer traffic problems than at either of the two downtown sites.
Locating the city hall downtown, however, would have a positive effect on downtown development, Hall-Esser said.
One of the downtown sites is bounded by Culver Boulevard and Irving Place, the other by Washington Boulevard, Irving Place and Van Buren Place.
The Redevelopment Agency owns the 1.6-acre lot at Culver Boulevard and Irving Place, leasing part of it to the Newport Beach-based BYCO Inc. and part to Coast Media Newspapers, publishers of the Culver City News.
The agency owns about half of the 4.5-acre lot at Washington Boulevard, Irving Place and Van Buren Place. The Culver City Unified School District and four private owners hold the balance of that site, according to an agency staff report.
Construction costs for the City Hall project at the Culver/Irving site would be nearly $13.5 million, the report stated, compared to $15.5 million to $20 million on the Culver/Overland site. However, the Culver/Irving site is too small to include the school district administration building or the courthouse, Hall-Esser said in her report.
The Washington/Van Buren parcel would cost more than $8.5 million to assemble, Hall-Esser reported. That site also is too small for the school district building or the courthouse, and the time necessary to acquire the land from private owners would delay construction, Hall-Esser said.
Councilmen Paul A. Jacobs and Richard R. Brundo, who voted for the Overland site, have said that they still favor it but may be persuaded to change their votes if presented with new information. Councilwoman Jozelle Smith also favors the site. Councilman Richard M. Alexander opposed it, while Mayor Paul A. Netzel abstained.
Jacobs, who requested the April 27 hearing, said he did so in response to a number of phone calls from people "who have always taken a strong interest in the community and who advised me they didn't feel they had an adequate opportunity to make their attitude clear and to study the issue as much as they wanted to."
Jacobs said, however, said that in his opinion, downtown development is proceeding on its own.
"We no longer have to assume that the only way we can attract private development is to make a substantial public commitment," he said. "We can say without question that there is already a substantial commitment in downtown, and we can make a decision on a city hall site in other areas as well."