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Cost Forces Goleta Officials to Table Plans For a New City Hall

Divided council decides to postpone plans to convert the Goleta Valley Community Center into a Civic Center, which could run over $37 million

The high cost of converting the Goleta Valley Community into a City Hall made the City Council abandon its plans for now.
The high cost of converting the Goleta Valley Community into a City Hall made the City Council abandon its plans for now.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

After spending time and money on a Civic Center Feasibility Study, Goleta officials decided Tuesday to shelve plans for a new city hall entirely — at least for now.

That’s because staff estimates the city would need more than $37 million to relocate City Hall to the historic, city-owned Goleta Valley Community Center site at 5679 Hollister Ave. in Old Town Goleta.

The Goleta City Council voted 3-2 to put those plans on hold, asking staff to return with a prioritized list of critical upgrades the facility needs during discussions about GVCC management next month.

The council also authorized the city manager to extend the city's current lease for City Hall facilities at 130 Cremona Dr. through 2019 — and to expand them on the second floor.

Mayor Jim Farr and Councilman Michael Bennett opposed shelving plans, trying to keep negotiating to acquire parking lots on the western end of the 7-acre property and to buy nearly three acres adjacent to the property (owned by the Goleta Union School District).

“I don’t think from my perspective we should be throwing out the baby with the bath water,” Bennett said.

The city is paying more than $600,000 annually to rent and operate out of the Cremona Drive business park, a place Farr said isn’t even located where residents would see it.

The feasibility study begun in 2014 concluded with this week’s vote.

While the site could accommodate plans for a new 30,000 square-foot city hall, staff recommended tabling discussions because Goleta would have to take on too much debt to move forward.

Plans derailed last July when council asked designers at Ventura-based RNT Architects to retain existing educational programs already on site, including Head Start preschool and the Rainbow School. That pushed a scaled-back $33 million design over $37 million.

Although more than $1 million is already set aside for a new city hall, staff recommended not engaging in a bond issuance greater than $15 to $18 million.

The cost of renovating the GVCC was estimated at $4.5 million, while the price of building a new facility was estimated at $7.5 million.

“Well, that doesn’t make me very excited,” Councilman Roger Aceves said, suggesting council tackle issues in phases.

Council seemed to prioritize baseline improvements like seismic and accessibility, which were quoted at $646,000. That money would have to be raised, staff said.

“I’m wondering if we need to do a rethink here,” Councilwoman Paula Perotte said. “We’ve run into some obstacles. I’m wondering if we could not just make this a true recreation center. I’m just planting the seed.”

She said city hall could possibly go somewhere else, such as the city-owned triangle property.

“We need a downtown,” Farr said. “If we took a hard look at this $37 million, one would think … we could come up with $5 (million) even $10 million to cut back until it could be safely covered. My fear is that it won’t ever come off the shelf.”

Bennett pushed for buying surrounding GVCC property, saying things won’t get less expensive if they wait.

“We are where we are, and we have to deal with it,” Councilman Tony Vallejo said. “There are just too many things working against us.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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