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Council Expected to Approve Nearly $9 Million in City Hall Improvements

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By Jorge Casuso

January 10, 2020 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to approve nearly $9 million in City Hall improvements to pave the way for the opening of its new state-of the-art City Services Building this spring (CSB).

The improvements to the south wing include replacing the roof and the heating and cooling system, and removing the last of the gas-fired units, making City Hall combustion free, staff said.

"The existing City Hall has long been in need of important fire and life safety alterations," staff wrote in its report.

The new annex -- called City Hall East -- "necessitates work in the existing City Hall structure it adjoins."

The $8,824,443 modification to the design build contract with Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company will bring the total project cost to a maximum of $79,424,950, City officials said.

"This does not affect the CSB phase of the City Hall modernization project, which remains within budget and on schedule," staff wrote in its report.

The new 50,200-square-foot, three-story annex -- which is scheduled to open in April -- is nearly the size of City Hall and will house about 240 employees and feature an emergency operations center.

Renovating the south wing contributes to the City's strategy to consolidate municipal staff spread out in City owned or leased spaces across Santa Monica.

"The City Hall South Wing tenant improvements will complete the relocation of staff from leased spaces to the City Hall campus, centralizing City services and realizing the full cost savings initiated by the CSB project will yield," staff wrote.

The total cost of the project has been the target of critics of City Hall spending who have called the new annex -- which could be the most self-sustaining building in California history -- a vanity project.

City officials say the addition, if built, will be only the 12th building worldwide and the first municipal building to meet the level of a certified Living Building Challenge (LBC), one of the highest standards of sustainability.

The initial $75 million price tag, which included the anticipated improvements to the south wing of City Hall, was the subject of an appeal backed by neighborhood groups and activists.

They argued the money should be re-directed to address more pressing needs, such as affordable housing.

The Council unanimously rejected the appeal and approved the project, which they said will save the City money in the long term by cutting energy and leasing costs ("Council Rejects Appeal of $75 Million Santa Monica City Hall Annex," January 26, 2017).

Eight months later, the Council unanimously voted to issue lease revenue bonds of $76.76 million to fund the project ("City of Santa Monica Prepares to Bond Nearly $77 million for Greenest Building in California History," August 4, 2017).

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