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Sanders unveils scaled-down plan for new City Hall

By JOE BRITTON

City News Service

Mayor Jerry Sanders on Thursday unveiled a scaled-down proposal for a new City Hall, which he hopes to put before San Diego voters in November.

Developer Gerding Edlen’s proposal calls for a 19-story, 576,000-square-foot building next to the current City Hall, where Golden Hall currently stands. It would include a 400-seat council chamber on the second floor and a 1.25-acre public plaza.

The cost of the project would be capped at $293.5 million.

If it is approved by voters, construction would begin in January 2012 and be completed in 2014.

The project is considerably smaller than Gerding Edlen’s previous proposal, which called for a 34-story building, with nearly 1 million square feet, at a cost of about $440 million.

The mayor said the project is smaller due to the economic decline and because the city has laid off about 1,400 workers in recent years and doesn’t need as much office space.

Sanders said the city would save about $24 million in the first 10 years by avoiding significant maintenance expenses at the existing City Hall, and because San Diego wouldn’t have to continue leasing office space for workers at locations around downtown.

The city will spend $13 million this year to lease office space out of City Hall, Sanders said. The city will also have to spend $37 million on “Band-Aid” repairs on the existing City Hall over the next 10 years, when the building will have to be demolished, he said.

Sanders called the current City Administration Building a “money pit.”

The building, which was built in 1964, is deteriorating, has inadequate fire suppressions systems, lacks necessary seismic retrofitting and is laden with asbestos.

“We simply need to stop wasting money on expensive fixes to a building that is on its last legs,” Sanders said. “Moving forward, we need to spend taxpayer money on city services, not on rent.”

Opponents of the project argue that instead of rebuilding City Hall, San Diego should be looking to renegotiate existing leases at more favorable rates.

Councilman Carl DeMaio has also argued that the city hasn’t fully explored all the alternatives to building a new City Hall.

Charles Black, the city’s chief negotiator on the project, said San Diego has few options when it comes to City Hall — either build it now, or build it later.

“There is no third option,” Black said.

Black, the head of CB Urban Development, has overseen a number of large developments in downtown in the past including Petco Park.

Sanders is scheduled to present the proposal to the City Council’s Rules, Open Government and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Wednesday. The mayor’s office has also scheduled four upcoming public meetings.