The City of Goleta recently took another step toward moving its City Hall, keeping plans alive by working to relocate a Goleta bus yard that would offer the project more space.
Last Tuesday night’s Goleta City Council meeting marked completion of the Civic Center and City Hall feasibility study, which began in January 2014 and involved numerous public workshops and outreach to residents, stakeholders and officials.
Designers at Ventura-based RNT Architects asked for final direction last Tuesday, this time as guidance for staff who wished to continue negotiations with the Goleta Union School District to buy 2.8 acres adjacent to the proposed site at 5679 Hollister Ave.
That district-owned parcel includes a bus yard and Operation School Bell, an organization that works to clothe needy local children.
School district officials are receptive to the idea, but only if the city can find and build a suitable relocation site.
Council members voted 4-1 to allocate $13,500 from the city’s general fund to conduct a second phase of environmental work on the current school site for additional soils testing.
City Councilman Roger Aceves opposed the motion, explaining he believed there were already too many issues with the site to pursue.
Aceves did, however, side with the rest of council when it unanimously voted to extend RNT’s contract so designers could continue facilitating a scaling down of the project.
“We’ve covered a lot of ground, so it’s not like we’ve wasted money,” Aceves said.
Under the proposed civic center plans, all buildings would be one level except the parking garage and the three-story City Hall, which would be higher at its center so the council chambers could look down on the courtyard.
In addition to the community center, the parcel also currently includes the Boys & Girls Club and educational classrooms for the Headstart preschool program and the Rainbow School.
Officials are fans of a courtyard scheme, which would put City Hall south of a civic center separated by a public courtyard. It would also provide more parking throughout the property and potentially a police substation, a branch library, replacement Headstart and/or Rainbow School classrooms and community swimming pool.
Depending on the project scope and budget, civic center development could also include renovation of the GCC building, which was built in the early 20th century and needs accessibility, seismic, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other upgrades.
Staff asked the council for a list of project priorities and goals, but officials said they would prefer hashing out those details in a future workshop session, most likely in July.
Council members agreed the project should be refined, especially since designers presented four iterations ranging in size and cost from $42.3 million — basic City Hall, community center renovation, police substation, Headstart classrooms and western parking area — to $72.2 million.
The largest option added features such as a branch library, a swimming pool, a parking structure, commercial space and acquisition of the school district site.
The city compared project costs to the approximately $646,000 it spends annually to rent and operate City Hall. A staff report showed rent is $476,000, common area maintenance accounts for $85,000 and utility costs hover around $85,000.
“We’re not quite sure what it is we’ll be designing here,” Mayor Pro Tem Jim Farr said. “This all began in a discussion to revitalize Old Town. That was the genesis of this, and, of course, it’s still critical. We are looking at the big picture here, and there are a lot of things we’re going to be doing.”