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Friday, April 26, 2013

The Civic Center Belongs to the Taxpayers

Long Beach city management today (April 26) released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) inviting interested parties to submit their qualifications to develop, construct and operate a new Civic Center. 
 I am puzzled why the City is sending this RFQ out before it has verified with another seismic expert the one report we have that indicates there is $170,000,000 in repairs needed for City Hall. The Council was told there would be a peer review to verify the repairs are required and at the amounts stated. Doing it after the fact seems not logical and appears that this train is already out of the station on moving to get rid of the current city hall.

The other troubling aspect to this announcement are the comments by the Council member of the 2nd District whose district the Civic Center is in, which neglects to mention anything about concern for the taxpayers. At a time when we have huge unfunded liabilities and services which need to be restored, concern about rebuilding a very expensive building because is " design lacks human scale, is difficult to access and does little to assert the importance and value of the public realm" seems rather out of touch with what this City is experiencing.

The Civic Center is not the plaything or the design project of one particular council member. "Visioning" what a civic center should look like or whether or it not it should be rebuilt belongs to the taxpayers of the entire city -- and this discussion has yet to take place.

Finally, one of the major reasons I tried to get my colleagues to discuss prohibiting contributors from contractors and those bidding on contracts is because of this specific potential "trough" of public funds to build a new Civic Center. We need to make certain that any decisions concerning this issue are free from political contributions.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why I Voted Against the Sale of 100 Long Beach Blvd...City Hall East

I was the only councilperson who voted against the sale of the building and parking lot at 100 Ocean Blvd last week. ( published the vote and the council agenda item and in the interest of saving space I am linking the article

This property was originally "sold" to the City of Long Beach for a value of $10 million from Southern California Edison when our current mayor, Bob Foster, was a Senior VP of SCE. Actually the building was given to the City in exchange for a promise that Long Beach would never leave SCE and go off and run its own electricity utility. SCE valued the building at $10 million and told the City if it ever broke its promise not to run an electricity utility, the City would have to pay SCE $10 million for the building.

For a brief time and about $1.5 million in refurbishing costs, the City used the building to house the police department while the old building was totally redone. When no longer needed, the City put the building out for sale and got an offer of $5 million. But  the potential owner backed out when a plan to move the City's Main Library to that building and for the City to lease the building from the new owner got squashed when a couple of councilmembers (oh it may have just been me) and the community rose up and said...NO.

A few years later, the building again sold for $4 million but that deal never went through.

So last staff recommended another bidder and proposed to sell the property for $2.1 million.

My objections to the sale are numerous: 
1) our insurance company valued replacement of the property at $35 million -- so either we buy way to much insurance or we just had a fire sale...
2) The performance requirement placed in the agreement gives the buyer $1 million dollars if somehow the city doesn't close escrow. Even the Assistant City Attorney had to admit when I asked that this was an abnormally high amount.
3) The City was selling the property "as is" but was giving certain warranties on the property and was reimbursing the seller for vandalism done on the property before the sale was even negotiated.
4) The City never put the property out for the entire real estate community to bid because management claimed it gave the city better control over what we want done with the property. Well, someone needs to go back to real estate school because the city could have required the same use of the property through a restrictive covenant.
5) And on the topic of restrictive covenant, after the vote I found out that indeed (a little real estate pun) the city was insisting a restrictive covenant that the property be used for residential apartments and some retail space. But low and behold, it is only for 10 years, which then the owner I presume will take this gem of a deal and flip it into condominiums.  
6) The Council received several letters from attorneys representing another bidder alleging the City Council violated the Brown Act and that the City should have set aside appropriate time for an administrative appeal from the other bidder. I thought we might want to wait until some of this legal stuff was worked out before we went ahead.

Save Station 18

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