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City Council and Redevelopment Agency Report

 

City Council Meeting: February 23, 2010

Agenda Item: 8-A

To:                   Mayor and City Council

                        Chairperson and Redevelopment Agency Members

From:              Lee E. Swain, Director of Public Works

Subject:         Design Contract for Pico Branch Library

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the Council:

1)    Affirm Virginia Avenue Park (VAP) as the appropriate site for a new Branch Library to serve the Pico Neighborhood;

2)    Authorize the City Manager to negotiate and execute a professional services agreement with Koning Eizenberg Architecture for design and bid preparation documents for the Pico Branch Library at VAP for an amount not to exceed $882,590 (includes a 10% contingency); and 

3)    Authorize the City Engineer to issue any necessary change orders to complete additional work within budget authority.

 

Staff also recommends that the Redevelopment Agency authorize the Executive Director to execute a Reimbursement Agreement between the City and the Redevelopment Agency for costs associated with this scope of work described above.

 

Executive Summary

On May 12, 2009, Council approved a funding allocation of $12.8 million to fund the construction of a Pico Branch Library in Virginia Avenue Park.  Following a competitive request for proposals and interview process, the Pico Library Selection Panel recommended Koning Eizenberg Architecture to undertake the architectural and engineering design services for a “State of the Art,” 7,500 square foot, on-grade branch library building with surface parking for 30 cars.

 

Background

Branch Library service has been available at a number of locations in the Pico/Sunset Park area of the City since 1931. The existing Fairview Branch Library at 2101 Ocean Park Boulevard opened for service in 1956.  The Pico Neighborhood Community Plan (February 15, 1983) speaks of the need for a library and suggests consideration of combining existing private sector commercial activities with public uses to include a library and a post office.  As Virginia Avenue Park was being planned, the inclusion of a library was discussed by the community.  During the period between 2001 and 2005, the City was focusing on improvements to its branch libraries and the construction of the new Main Library. 

 

In 2008, the idea of a library in the Pico neighborhood gained support as the community considered the demolition and reconstruction of the Edison Language Academy.  City staff met with Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) officials to discuss a shared-use opportunity at the Edison Language Academy to construct a library that would be open to the public after school hours. 

 

Staff explored joint use opportunities with SMMUSD at Edison Language Academy.  As talks proceeded with SMMUSD, it became apparent that there were three barriers to developing a joint use project: time, space and access.  The school’s design plans were almost finalized and construction was being scheduled.  Any design changes would delay construction plans.  District officials expressed concern that the school site was already crowded and did not meet state standards for school campuses.  School officials were reluctant to have any portion of the school property open to the public during school hours.  A public library open only during the late afternoons, evenings and weekends would not provide library service comparable to that provided by the other branch libraries.  Discussions with SMMUSD did not proceed after these factors were acknowledged by City and school district staff.

 

The Pico community has continued to express the desire for a neighborhood library and expediency is one of their priorities.  Many residents at community meetings expressed that giving up a small amount of park space to quickly gain a library at Virginia Avenue Park would be a worthwhile exchange.  One common theme heard from the community was that residents wanted a library on the north side of Pico Boulevard.  Although the Fairview Library is less than a mile from Virginia Avenue Park, some community members feel Pico Boulevard represents a cultural divide that keeps residents away from that branch.  Heavy traffic on Pico Boulevard also poses a concern for child safety.

 

Other community suggestions have included: closing the Fairview Branch Library and building a new, larger facility to serve both the Pico and Sunset Park communities; the Mid-city area residents have the greatest distance to travel for library service so that is where a branch should be located; Santa Monica has a wealth of libraries and another branch is unnecessary; and, these funds could be better spent on other community priorities.

 

City staff worked with community stakeholders, the Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board, Recreation and Parks Commission, and the Library Board to explore options for Pico area library service. On September 2, 2008, the City Library staff held a focus group discussion at Virginia Avenue Park with community members gathered by the Pico Neighborhood Association. The meeting was designed to explore library service priorities for the Pico neighborhood and to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of possible library locations, including Edison Language Academy and Virginia Avenue Park. The findings of that discussion verified the value of adding a library facility and programs that would meet the needs of the culturally diverse Pico neighborhood, with a preference for the Virginia Avenue Park location.  On September 4, 2008, the Library Board met and agreed to support a library site in the Pico neighborhood and encouraged continuing the discussion.

 

On September 23, 2008, Council directed City staff to investigate alternative sites in the Pico neighborhood and to request additional input from stakeholders and the relevant Boards and Commissions.

 

Taking into consideration previous investigations and public input, City Staff identified two options for further exploration.  The first option was to build in Virginia Avenue Park.  The second option was to purchase a property for this purpose on the Pico Boulevard corridor.

 

Option 1:  Virginia Avenue Park

Koning Eizenberg Architecture was hired to investigate the feasibility of possible locations for the library facility at Virginia Avenue Park.  As part of this planning process, a public workshop was held at the park’s Thelma Terry Building on January 22, 2009. Over 6,100 notices were mailed to Pico neighborhood residents and businesses inviting their input on Pico area library service.  At this meeting, Koning Eizenberg Architecture presented site options and three schemes for a 7,000 to 7,500 square foot library branch with 25 to 30 additional parking spaces at Virginia Avenue Park. More than 35 community members attended and offered their input on a range of issues, concerns and general ideas on a Pico neighborhood branch library. Among the outcomes of this Community Workshop were:

·         Support for enhanced library service in the Pico neighborhood.

·         Recognition of a synergy between park and library programs for community benefit.

·         Realization that the Virginia Avenue Park location expedites building of a branch whose time has come for a neighborhood in need of resources.

·         Recognition that open space, parking, and traffic are concerns for a library located at Virginia Avenue Park.

·         A suggestion that a branch library located elsewhere on Pico could support revitalization of the boulevard.

·         The idea that a library as part of a mixed use development on Pico Boulevard could provide another neighborhood anchor.

 

On February 2, 2009, Koning Eizenberg Architecture and library staff presented the library site options to the Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board.  Based on feedback from the January 22, 2009 Community Workshop, this presentation refined its criteria for site options, additionally factoring in the concern for preserving open space, construction staging constraints, impact on existing park use and parking, and the value of additional park program spaces.  Koning Eizenberg Architecture presented three approaches to building a library facility in two zones: one located along Cloverfield Boulevard, and the other in the Farmers’ Market area. The Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board approved locating a library in the park in the Farmers’ Market zone.  Koning Eizenberg Architecture also presented the options to the Recreation and Parks Commission on February 19, 2009. The Commission approved a motion to support a Pico area branch library located in the Virginia Avenue Park Farmers’ Market zone, expressing its concern, however, over the loss of open space as a result of providing additional parking.  They also recommended investigation of transportation and parking alternatives.

 

Option 2:  Pico Boulevard Site

Locating a public library along Pico Boulevard would fulfill a goal of the 1983 Pico Neighborhood Community Plan and create revitalization opportunities for the Pico neighborhood.  The project could include the library only or it could be envisioned as an “anchor” development with shared parking, affordable housing and a small post office (a goal of the Pico Improvement Organization,) as well as the library.  Property negotiations could extend over a protracted period of time with no guarantee of success.

 

While Koning Eizenberg Architecture evaluated development opportunities for a library at Virginia Park, staff in the Economic Development Division surveyed the Pico neighborhood between 20th Street and 30th Street and from Pico Boulevard to the 10 Freeway for 25,000 sq. ft. parcels to accommodate a 7,500 square foot library with parking for 28-30 cars.

 

During their initial study, the Economic Development staff identified several potential properties within the neighborhood but found none for sale.  They then met with staff from the Library, Planning & Community Development and Public Works to review the various site options. Only one site met the criteria for both size and location (the community’s desired location of being on the north side of Pico Boulevard). 

 

Economic Development staff met with the owner of the most feasible alternative site and reviewed opportunities for co-development of the site.  The owner was receptive to opportunities to share parking on the site between the existing uses and the library, while providing sufficient space for construction of the new library. Primary disadvantages of the site are:

·         The City would have to pay an additional amount for land acquisition for the library and the City’s portion of the shared parking supply.

·         Negotiating and executing a financial transaction related to the acquisition of private property would slow the process for development of the library. 

 

Other properties considered on the north side of Pico Boulevard present the following challenges:

·         The site could result in lengthy property negotiations with multiple property owners.

·         The site would require the displacement of residents.

·         The site could require the exercise of eminent domain.

·         The site is so small that library development costs would increase significantly due to land acquisition, underground parking or multi-story construction.

 

Previous Council Action

On April 28, 2009, the City Council held a study session to consider a preferred location for the Pico Branch Library.  Council held a robust discussion of opportunities and impacts of locations inside and outside the park, including the opportunity to draw Virginia Avenue Park users to the learning opportunities available at the library if located in the park, the negative open space implications of locating the library in the park, the revitalization opportunities of locating the library along Pico Boulevard outside the park, and the opportunity to expedite the opening of the library if located inside the park. 

 

On April 14 and May 12, 2009, the City Council considered long-term priorities for the expenditure of Redevelopment Agency funds.  To support the Council’s consideration, staff estimated that the cost for a branch library in Virginia Avenue Park would be approximately $12.8 million. The budget estimate for a constructing the library on a Pico Boulevard site was $30 million, including site acquisition.  Annual operating costs were estimated to be approximately $1.2 million for either site with additional one-time costs of $1.5 million in the first year for opening collection and computer equipment purchases. The May 12, 2009, Council discussion resulted in Council’s identification of senior redevelopment funding priorities, including an allocation of $12.8 million to fund construction of the Pico Neighborhood Library.  The Council’s consideration of additional redevelopment funding priorities continued to June 9 and 10, 2009.  While there was some continuing discussion of funding the Pico Branch Library at the $30 million level, the funding allocation remained at $12.8 million dollars.

 

Following the Council’s action, staff prepared and published a Request for Proposals soliciting firms to provide design services for the branch library in Virginia Avenue Park.  The adopted FY 09/10 budget includes funds for initiating design services for the library.

 

Discussion

Design Services

On September 17, 2009, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was advertised on the City’s website for design services for the Pico Branch Library. The RFP solicited proposals from qualified firms to provide architectural and engineering design services for a “State of the Art,” 7,500 square foot, on-grade branch library building with surface parking for 30 cars.  The proposed building site is within the Virginia Avenue Park.

 

On October 15, 2009, 38 firms submitted proposals. The evaluation criteria included relevant experience, project approach, ability to conduct public outreach workshops, strength of the project team, history of meeting project budgets and schedules, and quality of the design portfolio. A panel comprised of City staff from Library Administration, Housing and Economic Development, Community and Cultural Services, and Architecture Services selected five firms for interviews. Interviews were held on November 17, 2009, at the Santa Monica Main Library. 

 

Based on Koning Eizenberg Architecture’s familiarity with the Pico neighborhood, their broad experience in working with the community, the quality of their built projects which includes Virginia Avenue Park, and the outcome of reference checks, the selection committee recommends that the City Council approve a professional services agreement with Koning Eizenberg Archtitecture for the design of the Pico Branch Library.

 

Redevelopment Considerations

The proposed project is consistent with the Redevelopment Agency’s Five-Year Implementation Plan and the Earthquake Recovery Redevelopment Project Area Plan. The Agency’s contribution for the proposed feasibility study and design will be made through an advance of City funds to be reimbursed by the Redevelopment Agency through available tax increment revenues. The Reimbursement Agreement will formalize the transaction between the City and the Agency and provide for the Agency’s funding of those costs.

 

Staff is pursuing development of the library in order to take advantage of the Redevelopment Agency’s ideal bonding window in 2012.  In order to meet the deadline, design work must begin in the spring of 2010, with final design work completed by the end of 2011 and construction contract negotiation well underway.  Pursuit of alternative sites that require property acquisition puts the project’s ability to meet these deadlines at considerable risk.

 

Next Steps

Staff recommends that the City Council affirm the location of Pico area branch library within the Virginia Avenue Park Farmers’ market zone and direct staff to move forward with design and contract bidding efforts for construction.  Doing so will allow the project to advance in an expedited manner, utilize allocated yet time-limited Redevelopment funding, create synergy between library and park services, expand the central, walkable, community-based and “campus” nature of the park,  and likely attract new users to the park. 

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

Funds in the amount of $882,590 for the design contract are available in account C174032.589000, Pico Branch Library. 

 

Prepared by:  Michael Collins, Architect

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lee E. Swain

Director of Public Works

 

Rod Gould

City Manager