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Council Pushes Ahead on Plan to Construct $258-Million City Hall

December 01, 1987|LEONARD BERNSTEIN | Times Staff Writer

In an attempt to solve their long-term municipal office space woes, San Diego City Council members Monday committed themselves to the construction of a new City Hall and directed City Manager John Lockwood to study three sites for the project.

Though the possible locations include an East Broadway parcel south of San Diego City College and the C Street site where current city offices are housed, Mayor Maureen O'Connor made no secret of her interest in the third site--an east downtown area that has been touted as a regional government center.

The city will not choose a site until April, but O'Connor said that she was "leaning toward" a parcel bounded by K Street, Imperial Avenue, 9th Avenue and 12th Avenue that is now owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The site, O'Connor said, could include offices for the city, the county and the U.S. Navy, along with a new central library, while providing a centerpiece that would revitalize a shabby section of downtown. The complex would also be near the Metropolitan Transit Development Board's new headquarters at Imperial and 12th avenues, which is being built.

Will Meet with County

O'Connor said she plans to meet with County Board of Supervisors Chairman George Bailey about moving county offices from the County Administration Center on Pacific Highway, which she said could be preserved as a historic building and converted into a museum. The current city administration complex could be sold, she said.

O'Connor was joined by council members Ed Struiksma and Judy McCarty, who also made favorable comments about the SDG&E site, which the city's Centre City Planning Committee has proposed as a government complex. Councilman Bill Cleator suggested eliminating the East Broadway parcel from consideration, but was turned down by council members who wanted all three locations examined.

The new complex is intended as a long-term solution to the city's office space shortage and the corresponding problem of rapidly escalating costs to lease needed space in nearby buildings, according to a task force that presented a report to the council Monday.

Because of the space shortage, some city departments are scattered among three buildings, causing inconvenience and inefficiency for city workers and the public, the task force report notes.

Although the city owns 316,000 square feet of office space, it leases an additional 275,000 square feet at a cost of $4.1 million yearly. By 2010, when the city will need 890,000 square feet of office space, it will lease 568,000 at an annual cost of $29.9 million if other facilities are not built or bought, the report says.

Lease Costs Going Up

More importantly, lease costs between 1988 and 2010 will total $319 million, substantially more than the $258 million top base price of building a new complex.

Anticipating criticism about constructing a building that could cost that much, Struiksma, who made the motion to commit the city to the new building, said that "whenever you start talking about $200 million to $300 million, there's got to be a lot of questions. The bottom line here is really whether we can afford to continue to rent or lease property as opposed to owning it.

"It is economically prudent to go forward and consolidate our offices under one roof," Struiksma said.

The report suggests paying for the building with certificates, which are similar to a conventional mortgage. After the council selects a site next April, the project will be the subject of a design competition. Plans call for the city to occupy the building by July 1992.

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