The Culver City Council this week decided to build its new city hall on the site of its old City Hall, but postponed a decision on whether to demolish the existing 71-year-old building.
"There is nothing lost by keeping our options open," Councilman Richard Alexander said.
However, if the old building is not torn down, Mayor Paul Jacobs said he may withdraw his support of using the existing site, which could bring the matter back to step one.
"I certainly would reconsider my selection of sites," Jacobs said at the end of the nearly three-hour discussion Monday night.
A citizens advisory committee, choosing from among four downtown locations, recommended the existing City Hall site at Culver Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue, "provided that the existing City Hall be removed."
The committee recommended the site because much of the land is already owned by the city, it provides good vehicular access, it is near the police station and it provides good street visibility if the old building is torn down, according to the committee's report.
The committee said that if the old building is allowed to remain, it will limit landscaping capabilities, limit future expansion and clash with the proposed California Mission architecture of the new building. If the proposed city hall is expanded, the work be Phase Two of construction.
"Our decision was predicated on the removal of the old City Hall," said Ed Little, vice chairman of the committee. "The committee would not have selected this site if the existing City Hall was to remain."
But after some residents on Monday night said the building should be saved because of its historical value, council members Alexander, Jim Boulgarides and Jozelle Smith said the council should delay a decision on demolishing the building to see if it can be saved.
Councilman Steve Gourley said he favors removing the old building from the site, although not necessarily demolishing it.
Boulgarides said there is no rush to make a decision since the recommendation also calls for the new 3-story structure with underground parking to be built in an L-shape around the old building. That will allow city employees to continue to use building until the new one is completed in three or four years.
However, Jody Hall-Esser, assistant executive director of the city's Redevelopment Agency, told the council that a decision has to be made soon because the architect will have to know whether to design the new city hall around the old building.
Decision Needed Soon
In addition, she said, city officials need to know whether extensive repairs should be made to the old building in order to make it safe in an earthquake.
If the building is to be demolished, she said, the city can perform less expensive repairs to strengthen it to withstand a moderate earthquake. Such repairs would involve anchoring floors to the walls of the building from the outside. However, if the building is to be saved, repairs would have to be done from the inside, which is more costly, Hall-Esser said.
If the building is saved and used for another purpose, it would require a total reconstruction to meet current building and safety codes. The cost is estimated to exceed the cost of constructing a new building, she said. Specific cost estimates were not available.
The council majority said it wanted to see cost figures before making a decision on saving or demolishing the building.
The matter is expected to be brought back before the council in 30 to 60 days, said Dale Jones, the city's chief administrative officer.
Jacobs, who was also a member of the advisory committee, said he hoped his colleagues would put aside any sentimental feelings in making their decision.
"I don't think we need to apologize to any group for the recommendation" to demolish the old building, he said. "We need not feel guilty or hesitate for what is a very solid decision."
In February, the City Council, sitting as the Redevelopment Agency, had selected a city-owned parcel on the northwest corner of Overland Avenue and Culver Boulevard for the new city hall. But a public outcry by residents favoring downtown sites forced the City Council to withdraw its selection.
As a result, the council appointed the citizens committee, which looked at four downtown sites. The other locations were at the southwest corner of Culver Boulevard and Irving Place; a block bounded by Culver, Washington and Ince boulevards and Main Street, and on Washington Boulevard between Irving Place and Ince Boulevard.
The other sites were rejected because of inadequate size or the cost of acquisition.
Among the recommendations for the new city hall is an amphitheater-style council chamber with fixed seating for 125 and a multipurpose room.