Del Mar City Council hears probable constructions costs for new city hall, civic center

By Kristina Houck

A new city hall and civic center could cost Del Mar between $9.8 million and $17.9 million, according to a report presented to the City Council on May 19.

The total project estimates include construction costs, as well as design, engineering and permitting costs, soft costs and construction contingencies, explained John Heusner, director of Cumming Corporation, a Carmel Valley-based project management and cost consulting firm. The firm looked at costs for three different city hall and civic center scenarios.

In the first scenario, just the construction of a 9,250-square-foot city hall, 100-seat town hall, 15,000-square-foot plaza, 50-75 surface parking stalls and demolition of the current facilities was estimated at about $6.7 million. In the second scenario, the construction of a 10,000-square-foot city hall, 150-seat town hall, 15,000-square-foot plaza, 150-space parking structure and demolition of the current facilities was estimated at about $12.3 million. The third scenario featured the building program of the second, but with a 75-space parking garage under the buildings and a 75-space parking lot. Construction was estimated at almost $11 million.

Under the impression the project would cost less, Deputy Mayor Al Corti said he was concerned with the cost estimates.

“Am I now as in favor of building this as I was before? The answer is ‘no,’” said Corti after hearing the presentation by Heusner. “Regardless of how I finance it, even if I can afford it, it seems, to me, more expensive. … I would like us to work on a process that can get the cost down to a more palatable number.”

Earlier in the meeting, the council voted 4-0 — with Councilman Terry Sinnott absent — to use the city’s public, education and government (PEG) access fees for the new civic center’s television studio.

Through a contract with the city, the Del Mar Television Foundation currently operates, broadcasts and provides production services for the television studio, which is about 900 square feet, with a 600-square-foot control room and roughly 300-square-foot storage space. According to city staff and foundation estimates, the foundation only needs a total of 600 square feet of space, including separate rooms for the control room and cablecast equipment.

Equipment is estimated to cost about $293,000, according to the foundation. To help with construction and equipment costs, the council designated the city’s PEG fees, which are paid by local cable television franchise holders, to the project. Del Mar receives approximately $28,000 in PEG fees per year, and currently has $160,000 in PEG avenue available, said Andrew Potter, the city’s administrative services director in a presentation before the council.

“I think that the Del Mar TV Foundation, the broadcasts that they produce, are a vital public service,” said Councilman Don Mosier. “If we’re going to construct new space and demolish the current studio, we have a community obligation to replace the facilities.”

Although the council has made some decisions and the city is moving forward in the planning process, Kathleen Garcia, the city’s planning and community development director, reminded the community that the whole city hall and civic center process will likely take the city at least two and a half to three years.

Since the council approved a draft schedule outlining the project’s next steps in March, presentations and discussions have occurred at every council meeting and will continue to take place at every meeting through June 16, when the council could make some decisions on the project. Still, the city is only in the first phase of the project, Garcia said.

So far, the city has explored potential city hall sites, program and uses, and financial and economic assessments during the planning phase. Following the planning phase, the city will enter into the design phase, and finally the construction phase of the project.

Throughout the process, the city has engaged the community, first in a workshop in December, followed by a survey in January. To further encourage discussion, the council has also set aside up to a half hour during council meetings for community input on the project. Open forums during council meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and will take place at every council meeting through June 16.

The public will have another opportunity to participate in the process during a second community workshop on June 9. The city hall planning workshop begins at 6 p.m. at the Del Mar Communications Center, located at 240 10th St.