City Council Balks at Increasing Costs of West Hollywood Park Plan

The east elevation of the proposed aquatics and recreation center at West Hollywood Park
The east elevation of the proposed aquatics and recreation center at West Hollywood Park

The City Council balked last night at a proposed $4.8 million increase in the budget for the redevelopment of West Hollywood Park, an increase that would bring the total cost of the eight-acre project to $94.85 million, or $11.85 million per acre).

The Council asked city staffers to return at its March 7 meeting with an assessment of various options, including seeking contributions from private donors and selling advertising space atop one of the buildings to generate revenue to offset the cost of the project.

In January 2014, the Council approved an initial budget of $80 million for the project. By July the estimated cost of the project, on which construction has yet to begin, was $85.8 million. That included an additional $5.8 million to cover the cost of a $3 million “grand stair,” a freestanding public bathroom, adult fitness equipment and an entrance at El Tovar Place and Robertson Boulevard. In November 2015, the Council added $4.25 million to the budget to cover additional parking ($3.5 million) and construction of a dog park ($750,000). Estimated construction costs alone have increased 9.5% according to a calculation by a city consultant.

A memo from City Hall staff offers several reasons for projected cost increases. A major one is increases in the cost of construction across the market since the last estimate. The staff memo projects that cost will increase further as construction time is extended for additions of the grand stair, the dog park, and the AIDS Monument that weren’t in the original plan. The project initially was scheduled for completion in April 2019. Increases in the complexity of the project also are responsible for some cost increases. And the cost of the design of the project is $1.6 million over what was budgeted.

The city staff memo recommends $2.65 million in savings that would come from aesthetic and other minor design changes. Another expense would be using a “project labor agreement” (PLA) strategy under which the city would negotiate with the relevant unions on wages for workers on the project and require contractors to pay those wages to non-union workers they use. That PLA strategy, which city staffers did not recommend, would add an estimated $7.2 million to the project to cover legal support, monitoring of the contractors and costs of additional paperwork and because it likely would reduce the pool of willing bidders.

The staff memo proposes several options for reducing the project’s cost. They include eliminating the recreational swimming pool (but not the sports pool) for a savings of $750,000, eliminating a large community room and the green roof above it for $750,000 and removing the “grand staircase” and associated cafe for a savings of $1.75 million. Another option is to construct the project in one phase, which would save $500,000 but leave the entire park closed to the public during construction. The staff memo, however, proposes that construction take place in four phases to ensure that at least part of the park is open at all times. The last phase will involve the central area of the park.

The project would be funded with $60 million from bonds sold by the city and $31.1 million in money from the city’s General Fund capital reserves, which now have $57 million. Another $2.85 million would come from WeHo’s park and parking improvement funds and $900,000 would come from fees paid by developers of child care facilities at the park. The city projects the annual costs of paying off the bonds at $3.4 to $3.5 million a year.

Several WeHo residents and Council members expressed concern about the growing cost of the project. Cynthia Blatt, a Kings Road resident, said the park was becoming “one of the most expensive parks in the urban United States.” “It’s already cost us $88 million,” Blatt said, referring to money spent on the West Hollywood Library and the building housing the City Council Chambers at the park. “Now we plan to add almost $95 million, bringing the total cost of this urban park to over $200 million.”

Councilmember Lauren Meister, who wasn’t on the Council when the park redevelopment was first approved, said some elements of the plan, such as a “state of the art” gym, weren’t needed. “I don’t know that we have to have a SoHo House park,” Meister said, referring to the expensive private club on Sunset Boulevard. Councilmember John D’Amico suggested take another look at the automated parking equipment it was proposing for parking in the plinth and Aquatic and recreation center parking structures, which will cost $3.5 million.

Councilmembers John Heilman and John Duran argued that capital improvements such as the park are long term projects and their cost should be evaluated that way. “The project is one that will benefit all of our residents,” Heilman said. “If we do this right it should last many years and serve many residents to come.”

Warned that every one-month delay in the Council’s approval of the project budget costs the city $300,000 in fees to designers and likely increases in construction costs, the Council agreed to reconsider the matter next month after staff members return with reviews of suggested savings and fund raising efforts.

They include:

— Keeping the 11 public parking spaces on the north end of the park behind the Millions of Milkshakes shop on Santa Monica Boulevard.

— Considering different alternatives for phasing in the construction to reduce costs while keeping the park accessible to residents.

— Eliminating the proposed automatic car stacking equipment in the parking structure.

— Launching an effort to raise money for the project from private donors.

— Selling advertising on a space above the building on El Tovar Place.

Councilmember Meister said she didn’t support the private fundraising concept, noting that the West Hollywood Library had not met its fundraising goals.

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Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
5 years ago

We should not forget that Phase 1 of West Hollywood Park Development has already cost taxpayers over $88 million, so we are now closing in on the $200 million mark.

mike dunn
5 years ago

Is the city really trying to out do the PDC by building another monstrosity across from it? West Hollywood Park is by no means a large piece of green space. In fact it probably is smaller than Plummer Park. The city has already ruined part of the park with that huge monstrosity of a building housing the Library. It should have been built at street level with parking underground. The stupid explanation that there are underground streams is laughable, there are streams everywhere under the Los Angeles area and underground parking has been built. In fact the subway transverses threw… Read more »

J Simmons
J Simmons
5 years ago

The lap pool is used extensively, day and night (the weho swim club trains daily) and a rec pool is also a place for older and disabled people to get light low impact exercise by walking around the shallow section. Those costs (however high) are pittance in the size of the massive overall budget and would serve more residents needs than any other changes.

Rick Watts
Rick Watts
5 years ago

“Greenie”: I did not represent my views as being the position of the Disabilities Advisory Board.” I identified myself on the matter on which I spoke (licensing of “tobacco shops” which also sell and profit from drug-paraphernalia-by-another-name: a fact which has wide implications in facilitating the panoply of health, legal and social implications associated with the disabling illness of addiction which afflicts so many WeHoans. (Re-view the tape to which you refer,”Greenie.”) As to my “baseless” comments in THIS forum re park proposals, judging by others on this thread–and the actions of the City Council–it seems I’m not the only… Read more »

Greenie
Greenie
5 years ago

@Rick Watts: Since the City of West Hollywood has and continues to handle the financial affairs to the benefit of the city, residents and visitors, you should stick to what you know. Also, I would refrain from representing yourself and your comment at council during public comment as a Disability Board member and not mention your comments are yours as a member of the public. While it is ok to identify yourself as a member of the Disability Advisory Board; you can’t speak for them as a group. It’s on tape! People use aliases for any number of reasons. Any… Read more »

Rick Watts
Rick Watts
5 years ago

LUCA D: In partial defense of the street side AIDS plaque program, it was created with dual purposes: 1) a memorial market for those who ponied up the price; and 2) a fundraiser for AID4AIDS, which is a decent program. But the plaques were priced such that many of us who lost friends could not afford to participate. As I noted earlier, the affordable ($50) pricing scheme of Las Memorias is affordable to almost anyone who lost a loved one. And I think it’s part of the point Jimmy Palmieri was trying to make with his suggestion. And I concur… Read more »

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
5 years ago

A White House renovation took place in 22 months (1950-1952) and was so extensive that it literally “gutted” the original structure. President Truman truly understood the significance of this centerpiece of our country – unlike many others following – and actually resided outside the White House for 22 months so the work could be accomplished. It was accomplished for $5.4 million ($54 million in 2016 dollars)……AND WE ARE SPENDING UPWARDS OF 95 MILLION AND COUNTING ON THIS PARK?????

luca d
luca d
5 years ago

boy oh boy, liberals love to spend other peoples money. memorial plaques for sale…really? and just how much money will that raise in the larger scheme of things? i remember another plaque raising scheme years ago. anyone remember the plaques slammed into the ground next to the new trees along the boulevard after that renovation? what happened to those plaques? but, the city happily took your money. a joke, and a disgrace to the memory of the individuals who were to be honored and remembered. i haven’t followed this park renovation closely, so i will defer to others on what… Read more »

carleton cronin
carleton cronin
5 years ago

This was supposed to be a monument to who? For starters, drop the ridiculous signs atop the building. Forget the car-stacking device. The Council cannot please everybody, so drop the frills and concentrate on the basics.

Jeanne Dobrin
Jeanne Dobrin
5 years ago

On Tuesday night, in a presentation to the City Council, city planners and outside consultants told us that the previously calculated cost of $90 million dollars to develop huge improvements was not going to be enough, that an additional $4.8 million dollars would be needed, And at the same time they said many items had to be either cut down or cut out. I will present some glaring issues that provoked the City Council and some that provoked me and others.. One is the attempt partial removal of the dog park, which is unacceptable in a city where dog owners… Read more »

JJ
JJ
5 years ago

If this City can have two dogs parks, then we certainly can have the recreational pool for the humans to use…afterall, we’re the ones paying taxes, not our four legged friends.

Stephen
Stephen
5 years ago

Why has WeHo suddenly fallen in love with the idea of these hugely expensive “automatic car stacking” structures? Do they really create hundreds of additional parking spots over a standard lot? – enough to justify the crazy debt they put us in, plus cost of upkeep??

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