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$750,000 Renovations Proposed for City Hall

Amidst budget deficits, City Hall renovations are being proposed that would significantly change areas used most by the public, office spaces and city council chambers.

The reviewed another mock-up of proposed City Hall interior renovations at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

The main goals of the City Hall renovations, which are estimated to cost $750,000 that would come from the city's general fund, is to create a one-stop shop downstairs for residents to do City Hall business and to restore the building to its original 1920s character. City Hall was last remodeled in 1988.

Councilman Dennis Kneier suggested the council not proceed with choosing and paying a contractor for City Hall renovations until after the results of the Public Safety Tax on the November ballot. The tax provides $2.6 million, or about 30 percent of the police and fire budget, according to San Marino City Manager Matt Ballantyne.

The city has faced budget deficits in recent years and faces deficits in its unrestricted fund balance through the 2014 fiscal year. San Marino's budget is explained in more detail in .

“About 5,000 people a year come up to get a business license or do business up in that area and those stairs are an inconvenience so [we’re] relocating for customer service purposes downstairs,” said San Marino Assistant City Manager Cindy Collins.

After the City Council gave feedback on , some changes were made that were reflected in the newly proposed plans, drawn up by Tyler/Gonzalez Associates in Pasadena.

“I know $750,000 seems like a lot of money to spend but considering it’s two floors of a building and … the standards you have to use in doing this, it seems like a reasonable amount to invest in,” said Councilman Kneier. “You get used to City Hall but if you go to other places, our City Hall is tired (in comparison) and it needs to be fixed up just like anything else that gets this kind of use over 20-something years. It’s the cost of doing business.”

City Council members discussed in March whether or not City Hall should have a council office since city council members do not hold formal office hours. Vice Mayor Richard Sun was in favor of an office while Councilman Kneier thought the space should be used mainly for something else. The plans displayed Wednesday include a council office, though the space can also be used for the city engineer and small meetings.

“One thing that bothers me and maybe this is my law firm background, but [the] council office—in terms of prestige—is in the wrong spot,” said San Marino resident Stephanie Johnson, who works in the accounting department at large law firm Latham & Watkins. “In any business I know, that would never happen, never. I don’t think it gives the right impression.”

Johnson also commented at Wednesday’s meeting that the first floor plans seemed cramped while two second floor offices seemed to take up a lot of space.

“I’m wondering if maybe we’re getting a little too palatial upstairs,” said Johnson.

The addition of a SMART board, an interactive display board, inside City Council chambers will enable council members and meeting attendees to simultaneously see presentations on a screen.

More plans for City Hall’s first floor include the removal of partition walls and restructuring of offices so staff that deal with the public do not have their backs to the public.

“The amount of work and analysis needed to get rid of these two walls are going to add significant costs on the project,” said San Marino Senior Planner Aldo Cervantes. “Not only will it involve soils reports, but having to dig underneath the foundation as well as bulk up the foundation underneath these two sections.”

Proposed changes also include new furnishings throughout City Hall.

Kneier suggested that the city ask for architect proposals for City Hall renovations in the meantime so if the Public Safety Tax passes the council can award construction to a contractor soon after.

The city is currently accepting proposals and no money will be spent on City Hall renovations until after the Public Safety Tax election results in November.

Ideally, the city wants the City Hall renovations to be completed in time for , which kicks off July 4, 2012 and lasts until July 2013, the 100-year anniversary of San Marino's founding.

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