Santa Paula: Ad Hoc Relocation of Civic Center and All Municipal Functions

By Sheryl Hamlin

Recent History

The Santa Paula City Manager has been setting the stage for the vacation of the Civic Center property since the May 2018 FY 2018/2019 Special Budget Meeting.

At that time, City Manager Rock indicated he would use $1 million from the Measure T monies to renovate the Police station. Read about that plan here.

Subsequently in September 2018, City Manager Rock reported that he had underestimated the cost to renovate the SPPD quarters and was searching for an alternative location. Read that report here.

For the last several months in the Council closed session agenda, there has been an item about negotiating for properties:

“Property: 270 Quail Court and 1574 Lemonwood Dr. and 1580 Lemonwood Dr.
Agency Negotiators: Michael Rock and Clete Saunier
Negotiating Parties: Alastair Winn
Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Payment.”

Relocate Entire City Hall

Item #8 on the January 16, 2019 City Council meeting was listed as:

Discuss and Consider Directing City Manager to Identify Possible Sites for Relocating City Hall

City Hall, source Google Maps

City Manager said that they have spent a year and a half examining the facilities. He cited the Grand Jury reports (here and here) about the SPPD quarters. He noted that they have identified a building for the Police, Public Works and the Corporation Yard. At this point in time, he said, they would like approval to initiate a search for sites to house the rest of the municipal functions.

He noted that the current building was constructed in 1951 with chambers added in 1957. He said there would be “substantial costs (new roof, HVAC, plumbing, furniture, paint and flooring) to bring the building up to standards. They want to look in the downtown area for a space to include the departments of Finance, City Manager, City Clerk, Attorney, Council and Council Chambers. These departments currently consume 7,000 sq. ft. They would ideally like 10,000 sq. ft to increase the size of the council chambers. It was not clear if the addition of the SPPD quarters was included in these numbers. At this point, this is exploratory to see what affordable options exist, he said.

With the recent fires, the availability of contractors and other building trades is stressed, he reiterated. Building from scratch is financially prohibitive. He would look for a situation like the one found for the SPPD which could save the city $15 million in costs.

Council Discussion

Council Member Crosswhite asked “at what point would the public be able to weigh in on this process?”.

For the SPPD site, City Manager Rock said, this could be done relatively soon, when the final terms for the purchase are finalized. Then he could bring the entire package to council for review: purchase plus renovation costs.

Council Member Crosswhite said “At some point we have to figure out how we are going to pay for this as well as other CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) projects. How much debt can the city support? What is the big picture?”

City Manager Rock responded saying he was aware of the big picture which included a sizable amount for streets and paying it back. All must be decided before June 30, 2019, when the budget is finalized.

Vice Mayor Araiza was concerned that staff would do all this work and have council vote it down, specifically calling out Council Member Crosswhite. He said he knows all the costs to upgrade these facilities. There are fifty years of deferred maintenance to overcome.

Council Member Crosswhite said she would rather not spend more money than necessary. Mayor Garman said he was in “full support of this”, not establishing what the “it” referenced.

City Manager Rock said we have estimates to keep the current building up to code and these are needed as comparisons.

Coiuncil Member Juarez said he agreed with Council Member Crosswhite about the transparency because years ago there was a project to move City Hall which upset the citizens.

City Manager said there was no Master Plan for City Hall, as there had been twelve years ago and that council would have to decide what to do with the current Civic Center Property.

Twelve Years Ago – Glen City Plaza

Researching previous minutes and archival copies of the Santa Paula Times, a project was uncovered called “Glen City Plaza which extended from Ventura to Harvard and between Tenth and Mill. The development group was called “New Group, LLC”. The managing partner was Bill Crigger, a developer from Santa Monica., Kay Wilson-Bolton was exclusive agent for the buyer, New Group.

The Santa Paula Times describes the project as follows:

“The development would have two-story townhouse apartments overlooking Veterans Memorial Park, a 35,000 square foot market and smaller retail space facing 10th Street. Open plazas will be adjacent to shops and restaurants. After some discussion it was decided to name the new complex Glen City Plaza to reflect the city’s history and the design will also tie in with Main Street. Mid-block pedestrian connections would provide access to the downtown”

Previous minutes discuss the project here as well as the exclusive agreement between the city and New Group.

The council (aka. The Redevelopment Agency) approved $100,000 for the “city expenses assodciated with the negotiation”.

Glen City Plaza Redux

What became of the Powerpoint Mr. Crigger gave to the city and subsequent negotiations is not recorded nor is there indication about the expenditure of the $100,000.

There are obvious questions at this point:

1. When the SPPD move was announced, why was there no council question about use of the SPPD space?
2. Now that this apparent ad hoc move of the rest of city hall has been announced, where are the spatial requirements?
3. What function (sell or redevelop) the current site would pay for both of these moves?
4. How much money would need to be borrowed to fill in for the deficit?
5. Functionally is the bifuircation of the municipal services a good idea when they have been co-located for so long?

East Area 1 Civic Center

Remember that Limoneira agreed to give the city $5,000,000 for a new Civic Center in east Area 1. See pitch here.

Subsequently, the previous council decided to allocate all of this $5,000,000 to the EA1 Regional Sports Park. Would it be wise to redirect these monies to the original purpose in light of the major announced relocation of the current municipal function?

City Manager Rock appears to be in a rush to finish the details by June 30, 2019 in order to include this move in the FY 19/20 budget. This would appear to be pressure on the staff. Is Vice Mayor Araiza concerned about this ramped up schedule and its effect on staff time as he stated during discussion of the estimates?

Ideally members of the community who have thoughts about the Glen City Plaza will speak at the public meetings and relate that previous to current needs. Or perhaps there is a developer waiting in the wings to produce a plan?

To watch the video, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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Citizen Reporter

“underestimated?” Yeah, SERIOUSLY. But with existing facility not meeting standards and large city growth, this will be a large cost.