|JAG (Photo credit: On Location in Los Angeles)|
You know that I launched OpenUpLongBeach.com to help taxpayers know what is happening in the City of Long Beach.
One of the most important council items to be considered in the 7 years I have served on Council is coming on Tuesday, October 22 -- and you should know about it.
That's why I have prepared a "guide" to this agenda item -- which proposes tearing down City Hall and the Main Library and rebuilding both at a tremendous cost to taxpayers.
Your Guide To The Agenda Item to Tear Down and Rebuild City Hall and the Main Library... Because You Have the Right To Know
by Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske
Scope of agenda item
· On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, the City Council will be asked to agree to move forward on a proposal to tear down and rebuild City Hall and the Main Library and to engage in a long-term financial deal with private developers for the design, construction and operations of the buildings for 30 years. This proposal comes after the City sent out a Request for Qualifications from firms. Upon review, management reduced the list to three as “qualified.”
· The Request for Qualifications were sent out after City Council approved it being done during a council meeting at which City staff indicated that City Hall and Main Library were not seismically safe.
· The Request for Qualifications, however, sent out by the City did not solicit any firms that have experience in retrofitting buildings nor did it ask that they indicate such experience. The focus of the RFQ was solely on the tearing down and rebuilding.
· This agenda item asks for approval to expend a substantial (but unspecified) amount of funds to prepare Request for Proposals. The Council needs to be informed as to the go forward costs before it votes.
· Six of the current council members may not be in office in 2014 either because they are termed out or are seeking other offices, so this major decision with a long-term impact will be decided by elected officials that will not be in office when this project commences.
City Hall and Earthquakes and Seismic Retrofit
· The City Hall is 225,000 square feet of useable space with 14 floors occupied by 718 employees.
· Alliant Insurance Services values City Hall at $86 million and the Main Library at $47 million.
· City staff estimate retrofitting costs for City Hall at $170 million which is twice its estimated value.
· City Hall and the Main Library were built in 1976 under strong earthquake building codes enacted after the 1971 earthquake.
· Since 1976, Long Beach has experienced several major earthquakes: 1987 and 1994. Neither structure was damaged and most interestingly, the City embarked on a $224 million dollar special assessment bond to retrofit commercial and residential structures in the City. Not one dime was spent on retrofitting City Hall or the Main Library as it was not determined it was needed.
· In 2005 or 2006, City management commissioned a seismic study indicating the need for seismic retrofitting. No urgency was indicated in the study.
· In 2013, City council requested an updated review of the 2005/2006 study and has yet to receive it.
· Absent from this agenda item are the details about why management is asserting that these two buildings are seismically unsafe. Nor has information been provided as to why the two buildings cannot be retrofitted and repurposed. The City Council has not been shown the second seismic report that was requested and it will not be given to Council until the Council meeting which makes it almost impossible to have a complete discussion on the merits of this proposal before a vote is taken.
· At no time has FEMA or any other government agency determined that City Hall and the Main Library are “essential buildings” or that they cannot be appropriately retrofitted.
· The following cities with city halls much larger and much older have successfully retrofitted: Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Francisco, Oakland.
· FEMA has a source of funding to assist local government with structural retrofitting of existing buildings in order to accomplish pre-disaster mitigation efforts. The City has not applied for this funding.
Lack of Earthquake Insurance on Current Properties
· Councilwoman Schipske asked during Council whether or not City Hall and Main Library is covered with earthquake insurance. She was told “no” nor are any of the City’s buildings insured against earthquake damage.
· A follow up email was sent to Councilwoman Schipske from Risk Management explaining that insurance carriers would not write an earthquake policy because of the number of high-rise buildings in the downtown area.
Public Private Partnerships
· A Public-Private Partnership (P3) is an arrangement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. Through this arrangement, the expertise and assets of each sector (public and private) are combined to deliver a service or facility for the benefit of the community.
· No California city has utilized a public-private-partnership to rebuild a City hall or library.
· The new Long Beach courthouse was built using a P3 structure and has been extensively criticized by the independent Legislative Analyst Office as costing much more than it would had it been constructed as a public project only.
· The City of Long Beach RFQ is only for a public-private-partnership and does not include a comparative analysis of a range of procurement options concerning city hall and the library – including design-bid-build; design-build; retrofit; and P3 in order to determine which procurement option would most effectively benefit the City.
· The City Council has not received a legal analysis from the City Attorney concerning whether or not it can approve such a substantial long-term financial commitment without having identified financial resources to meet such obligations.
· The current main library is 135,000 square feet. It houses Library Administrative services for the entire library system as well as tens of thousands of publications. It also includes two fully built out levels with offices and meeting rooms, an auditorium with approximately 263 seats and a park not in use on the roof. The lower level houses The Miller Special Collections Room which is finished in a superior manner.
· The RFQ contains language asking bidders to consider a new Main Library located at either the Civic Center or elsewhere.
· The RFQ also calls for a new Main Library at a reduced size of 50,000 – 75,000.
· When asked where the figure of 50,000 – 75,000 came from, city management responded “It was made up.”
· At no time was the public nor library design specialists consulted concerning the future of the Main Library.
· Why is this project being moved forward now at a time when 5 and possibly six council members are leaving in 2014?
· If the City Hall is so seismically unsafe why is it not shut down as was Belmont Plaza Pool?
· Have experts indicated that City Hall and the Main Library cannot be retrofitted and repurposed?
· Why have several other cities retrofitted their City Halls?
· Why didn’t the RFQ include seeking qualified firms for retrofitting and refurbishing instead of just tearing down and rebuilding?
· Why would the City consider using a public-private-partnership when no other city has done so for a City Hall or Main Library and the State Legislative Analyst Office, an independent, non partisan office, has severely criticized the State for utilizing Public-Private-Partnerships, citing higher costs for this method than others?
· Where is the cost comparison of doing this project with other than a P3?
· Where is the legal analysis from the City Attorney about the City Council binding future Councils to a major expenditure without a guarantee of revenues to cover the expenditure?
· How much money does City staff expect to expend to prepare and review a “Request for Proposals”? Where is the money coming from and why was it not disclosed in the FY 2014 budget?
· If the structures need to be retrofitted in the case of a major earthquake, why hasn’t the City so notified FEMA and applied for funding under the “Pre-disaster Mitigation Program?”
· Why did the RFQ include a project size for a new main library as being 50,000 – 70,000 square feet which is substantially smaller than the current library?
· What library design consultants were contacted about the appropriateness of this size?
· Where would the Miller Collection be located?
· If insurance carriers will not insure against loss for a major earthquake in the current location, why would the City expend millions of dollars on new structures that could be possibly destroyed?
· If a new City Hall and Main Library are destroyed in a major earthquake, who bears the burden of such loss?
· Why can’t the City Hall be re-located to the newly refurbished building acquired by the Port of Long Beach to its temporary headquarters?
· Why isn’t this issue being placed on the ballot so that taxpayers can determine whether or not the City should encumber debt of this magnitude?
The argument used by City staff is seismic safety. Well, there are so many unanswered questions surrounding this that I have also included a list of questions I intend to ask and which I recommend that you ask as well with emails.
This is your City Hall and Main Library and your tax dollars. I believe this issue should be placed on the ballot so that you can decide whether or not the City should retrofit or rebuild? Obligating the city for 30 years of payments should not be done without the consent of the taxpayers.
P.S. Check out why the State Legislative Analyst's Office thinks public-private partnerships aren't such a good deal for government. Click here.