MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
August 19, 2009 7:31 AM
Amid disagreement over the acquisition of a permanent city hall, a divided Goleta City Council on Tuesday voted to continue its deliberations to September.
The council heard a comprehensive presentation on various aspects of the proposed acquisition, which would involve the construction of a new 40,000-square-foot, two-story building at 6767 Hollister Ave and a move-in date of February 2011, with the second floor being leased to a tenant sometime in the following month.
The proposed building would be twice the size of the current leased space used by the council at 130 Cremona Dr., and the estimated cost is $14.7 million, or $367.50 per square foot.
Russ Goodman, the regional vice president of real estate company Sares-Regis, presented the council with information on the prospective project and told them that the company "couldn't offer this building at this price if we weren't in a recession."
This comment "concerned" Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves, who asked for further explanation and was told that the next presentation would answer his question.
Francois DeJohn and Steve Hayes of Hayes Commercial Group then presented the council with a report concluding that Sares-Regis is asking a reasonable price for the building. They also presented the council with comparisons to buildings in the city that they had seen and eliminated as potential locations for the future city hall.
One of the eliminated locations was the Cremona Drive building currently used by the council, which Mr. DeJohn said was determined not to be for sale.
However, during public comment, Geoff Berman, the developer who owns the building on Cremona Drive, stepped up to the podium and said he never participated in discussions about selling the building to the city and would be open to such negotiations.
Finance Director Tina Rivera presented a cash flow analysis to the board after working on the project with private financial institution Stone & Youngberg.
According to Ms. Rivera's proposals, the project could be funded using $1 million from the City Hall Reserve, $1.145 million from public and sheriff fees, $1.65 million from the cash flow reserve, $7 million from bond proceeds and $4 million from the contingency reserve, totaling $14.795 million. Ms. Rivera's report also applied a $395,000 contingency to the total.
After the presentations were given, the councilmembers began to present their personal opinions on the agenda item.
"I don't understand why the timing is so crucial," said Councilman Ed Easton. "I'm not ready to proceed at this point."
Councilwoman Margaret Connell and Councilman Michael Bennett agreed that they, too, were concerned about the project.
Mayor Pro Tempore Eric Onnen, however, expressed dismay at this lack of readiness, calling Ms. Connell, Mr. Aceves and Mr. Easton "unmotivated."
"I'm kind of surprised," said Mr. Onnen. "The public didn't turn out here today to say, 'This is the wrong place,' or, 'This is the wrong time.'"
Mr. Onnen continued, "This is an acceptable building in an acceptable location. We're making a mistake to think that we're going to have another opportunity roll down the street when we're ready."
Mayor Aceves retorted, pointing out that using a lack of public comment as a catalyst for a vote was unfair because he had received e-mails and blog entries against the project and they had chosen to hold the public session in the afternoon.
"I'm a firm believer that if we close this door, another one will open," he said. "We're only seven years old. Why do we need to run to buy a building that's twice the size of our needs?"
Ms. Connell also responded to Mr. Onnen's reference to public comment, quoting Donald Rumsfeld.
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," she said.
It was decided that further discussion on the potential acquisition of the Hollister Avenue property would be continued to the evening session of the scheduled Sept. 1 Goleta City Council meeting.