West Hollywood’s City Council unanimously approved sale of $20.5 million in bonds Monday night to finance the robotic parking garage to be built behind the City Hall building at 8300 Santa Monica Blvd. at Sweetzer.
Approval of selling bonds normally happens after construction documents have been approved, however, City Manager Paul Arevalo cited current historically low interest rates as why the city is choosing to switch the order for the robo-garage project.
“The timing on this particular issuing really is to capitalize on the current market,” said Arevalo. “We saw we really could capitalize on the historically low rates … in terms of sequencing things, this is a little bit out of order.”
Of the $20.5 million, $16 million will be used for construction of the robo-garage, $1 million will be used to widen Sweetzer Avenue and underground utility lines near City Hall and another $1 million will be set aside for unexpected contingencies.
Another $1 million will be used for renovations to the Werle Building at 626 Robertson Blvd. in between Santa Monica and Melrose, adjacent to West Park. The building, which serves as the home of the West Hollywood Recovery Center, the June Mazer Lesbian Archive and the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archive Gallery, will get a new roof, electric and plumbing upgrades and an elevator to the second floor.
The final $1.5 million will cover the cost of issuing the bonds and initial repaying of the debt.
Public commenters questioned the price tag for the robotic parking garage, which will store cars in berths using a series of motorized lifts, conveyers and shuttles. The 5-story garage incorporating state-of-the-art computerized technology from Unitronics, an Israeli firm specializing in automated parking structures, will have space for 200 cars, up from the 66 that are currently available in the City Hall surface parking lot.
Resident Stephanie Harker estimated the cost to be $157,000 per space, a price Councilmember John D’Amico agreed was high.
“Over $100,000 a parking space is an extraordinary amount of money, so I’m conflicted,” said D’Amico. “Short of tearing down all of City Hall, digging a big hole and putting a parking structure underneath it and building a building on top of it, which we certainly couldn’t do for $18 million, I’m not sure how we would get parking in that neighborhood.”
Councilmember John Duran said the robo-garage is a capital investment in a part of town that has severe parking shortages. He pointed out that while City Hall employees will park there during the day, the restaurants and bars will use the structure at night.
“Anytime we can create new parking in the mid-city, we are doing a great service,” said Duran. “This is a 30-year investment in the middle part of the city.”
Other residents pointed out the original concept was to have a parking structure that included community meeting rooms and a one-stop service counter to pay bills, get permits, etc. and had a $13 million price tag.
“Over the years, the project has become much more expensive even though the number of elements in the project has declined,” said resident Lyndia Lowy.
Councilmember Jeff Prang said the community meeting rooms were just a concept, never something formally approved. Prang said they found that parking, office space and meeting rooms all wouldn’t work in the same building.