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Council Prepares to Vote on New Police Headquarters : Government: Proposed $12.6-million Simi project would replace a facility built in the early 1970s.

November 18, 1995|MACK REED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SIMI VALLEY — On Monday night, the City Council can choose to look at plans for the new police headquarters from two points of view:

To city planners, the $12.6-million project is a big, modern building for an expanding police force that long ago outgrew its quake-rattled old headquarters.

But to street cops excited about the new digs, it is a ticket "from the stone age to the space age, almost," as Lt. Neal Rein puts it.

The council is set to vote on the floor plan and budget for the 47,429-square-foot headquarters, which by all accounts will open in late 1997 or early 1998 none too soon.

The current headquarters on Cochran Street is, bluntly put, a mess.

Originally built in the early 1970s as a temporary home for city offices, it has served triple duty as City Hall, a courthouse and police headquarters.

In the past 20 years, though, the department more than doubled in size, and the 1994 Northridge earthquake nearly shook the building to pieces.

"It's a real cobbled-together kind of facility," said Rein, who helped architects design the new headquarters. "We're real cramped right now. We're using broom closets for office space. When it rains, it leaks like crazy. The power goes out all the time . . . and it's old. Everything in here is old."

But the new headquarters at the corner of Alamo Street and Tapo Canyon Road, next to City Hall, will offer far more than new furnishings, Assistant City Manager Don Penman said.

"Aesthetically, the building will be much more pleasing to the staff and to the public," Penman said. "From a work-flow standpoint, it's designed to work together, whereas the building they've got now was built one piece at a time."

Rein agreed.

Now, he said, "If you want to talk to somebody, the work might be right next to you, but the other guy's in a completely different part of the building."

Detectives, who each have about 40 square feet of space along with their desks, will have about 100 square feet apiece in the new headquarters. That will give them room for deskside cabinets to store files that now are crammed under staircases, behind closet doors and into metal cabinets far from their desks.

Eight secure, segregated new holding cells for adults and juveniles will replace the five current cells, where poor locks have allowed the occasional escape, Rein said.

No longer will members of the public come to the front lobby only to be directed to another corner of the building--or even another building--to retrieve police reports or stolen property. Nor will crime victims have to tell their stories to officers and anybody else who happens to be sitting in the 200-square-foot lobby at the time: The building's new, 1,000-square-foot lobby will have a central desk for complaints, police reports and other public business, with closed interview rooms off to the side.

A door in the lobby will lead to a 200-seat public meeting room, which will double as the department's emergency operations center in case of earthquake or other disaster.

And skylights will give the building's public spaces a sense of breathing room that the current headquarters sorely lacks, Rein said.

As for the $12.6-million price tag, Rein said the building will be more functional than fancy.

"It's not quite the Taj Mahal," he said. "None of it is for opulence. There's no marble hallways, no crystal chandeliers. . . But it's going to be beautiful."

If the City Council approves the plans and budget Monday night, groundbreaking will take place in July or August, Rein said.

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