New City Hall Superfan

Officials from the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) continue on their cross-city public relations tour to promote the construction of a new downtown civic center. Last week, the group showed their stuff to a near-empty house at Serra Mesa Library. On May 27, after playing his presentation for councilmembers on San Diego City Council’s Rules Committee, CCDC vice president of redevelopment Jeff Graham went away knowing he gained one superfan of the project: Council President Ben Hueso.

The CCDC already knows what councilmember Carl DeMaio thinks. For months, DeMaio has issued memos, alerted the media to conflicting financial analyses, and sent memos to the mayor and other councilmembers, urging them to oppose the project. And even though he doesn’t sit on the Rules Committee, DeMaio dropped by to make sure everyone knows he’s not a fan.

“There’s a lot of manipulation in the numbers, and I’m concerned about that,” said DeMaio, who was winded from running into the meeting to have a chance to speak. “Based on these problems, I feel it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to reject the new city hall concept outright.”

Soon after DeMaio addressed his colleagues from the podium, the councilmembers on the committee commented on the proposal.

Council president Ben Hueso spoke up next. “Now’s the time to do it. I’ve had an opportunity to work in this building for nearly ten years. I was in an office that didn’t have a window. It didn’t have adequate electrical…uh, it was very, very unhealthy. This building is a biological petri dish. When someone gets sick in this building, everyone gets wiped out on the floor….

“This is a time when we need to be visionaries and think about the future,” continued Hueso. “Right now our city hall is a blight [sic]. It’s dysfunctional. It’s a horrible place to work. It’s a stressful place to work. This building is very energy inefficient.”

After Hueso, councilmember Donna Frye spoke. Frye asked CCDC vice president Graham for a comparison between the estimated costs to renovate the current city hall building to today’s standards and the cost to build a new civic center.

According to Graham, the cost for renovating and maintaining the current building to meet the needs for the next 30 years is approximately $225 million. The cost to build phase one of the new city hall is $440 million, though not all would be paid for by the City.

“When I buy a car I like to see those numbers,” said Frye.

Hueso interrupted. “Yes, but we want to buy a hybrid, Ms. Frye.”

For the next stop on the civic center tour before going to the full council for debate, go to ccdc.com.

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The W Hotel is apparently available. Maybe it would suit Ben Hueso better than his austere work environment downtown.

True, the old, ugly, dangerous, and inconvenient civic center complex is a disgrace to our city.

But our enormous debts are far more disgraceful.

Besides, if Hueso (or anyone else downtown) is thinking about 50 years, then anticipated sea level rises would obviously rule out building something downtown, which just might be under water in future decades.

Kinda like our current financial situation...

When a proposal like this comes from the CCDC, already well known for deception, self-dealing, and misappropriation of tax payer money for its own aggrandizement...it should be rejected out of hand.

Dissolve CCDC, use the money we save to rent some appropriate office space.

Then start long range planning for where this city will be in 50 years. Include the likelihood that coastal areas (like downtown) will be affected by rising seas, and the entire region will be lacking fresh, drinkable water.

That would be real leadership.

They never give up do they? Right in the middle of this fiscal crisis, the city government wants to build a pyramid. Sure, there is always a story of how the project will cost nothing and actually save money. But how often have those efforts come out the way they were supposed to work? Rarely at best.

This is reminiscent of the Hall of Justice, a new building in downtown that was built during our last real local downturn in the early 90's. Whole office buildings in the area were vacant, but the building industry talked the county supervisors into putting up a brand new one. Sure, it's a great facility and tailored to its function, but what did it cost versus just taking out a long term lease on an existing structure?

I'll bet the city could find plenty of space at distressed prices today. But no, it's gotta be new and monumental.

"I'll bet the city could find plenty of space at distressed prices today. But no, it's gotta be new and monumental.

By Visduh 9:02 a.m., May 29, 2009"

Exactly, there is PLENTY of available office space throughout the city. Lease rates are very good right now with great concessions. As for buying space, there are many for sale at unheard of prices compared to the last several years.

Absolutely no need to build something new.

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