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Budget for LAPD Building Increases

September 19, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

A City Council panel reluctantly agreed Monday to significantly increase the budget for a new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters complex amid warnings that the cost of the project is expected to jump much more before it is done.

Originally proposed to cost $302.7 million and later increased to $340 million, the police complex's budget was boosted Monday by the council's Budget and Finance Committee to $396.8 million even as project managers warned that the final price tag probably would be close to $420 million.

The five council members on the panel asked city staff to make sure that costs are held in check. "How do you assure us" that the $420 million "is a cap and ain't going to bust it out" by another $50 million to $100 million? asked Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

City Administrative Officer Bill Fujioka assured the panel that he and the mayor's office would provide "strong oversight" on the construction project to keep costs from increasing. "It will have a huge spotlight on it," Fujioka told the panel.

The 11-story police headquarters is proposed for a downtown property bounded by 1st, Main, 2nd and Spring streets. The project includes a new Motor Transport Division facility, a parking garage for police workers and a public parking structure to be built a block away.

One reason for the budget increase is that the headquarters portion drew only one bidder, and the price tag was $43 million more than budgeted. That cost has been negotiated down some; city officials agreed to forgo specially made glazed windows in favor of off-the-shelf models and to reduce the speed of the elevators, but the building will still cost about $31 million more than expected. "It is surprising we only got one bid and very disappointing," Fujioka said.

He said the Los Angeles school district, community college district and other local government entities have billions of dollars of construction bonds to spend, offering contractors so much work that they can pick and choose where to bid.

The approval of the larger budget paves the way for the Public Works Board and City Council to vote in the next week to accept the one bid, from Tutor-Saliba, rather than seek other competitive offers. Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller said rebidding the project was not likely to improve the bid, and could result in higher costs. Other factors involved in the larger budget include higher construction, design, debt and land acquisition costs, officials said.

The council panel agreed to postpone work on the motor yard and parking garages until land acquisition is completed, electing to go ahead for now with just the headquarters building. The additional $25 million in costs predicted for the future include escalating expenses for the supporting facilities.

Council members also raised questions about using TutorSaliba, given that it has had disputes with other government agencies in the past. "We know there are some concerns with the contractor," Fujioka said, adding that is another reason to have strong oversight of the project.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes

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