Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Civic Center Change Scenarios - Part 2

The price tags for the various proposed scenarios are now available.  Those scenarios can be seen here: http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/12/civic-center-change-scenarios.html

All the scenarios run from a low of $202M to a high of $320M (total project cost).  Since the city is likely to use the high estimate for bond measure just to be safe, we are really looking at $276M to $320M.
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For comparison, Sunnyvale's annual budget ("general fund") is roughly $150M/year so these project costs are 135% to over 200% of the annual city budget.  To partially offset this cost, city staff has identified up to $116M of city revenue that could be used to pay for parts of the plan.

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It is not stated how the sizes of the various buildings were derived.  In the scenarios given, it is not even clear what the sizes of the buildings are.  They can be derived from the cost estimates in the cases where they are completely new buildings.

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Size of new library:

Scenarios C, E.1 and E.2 have completely new libraries for a low estimated cost of $57M, $55M, and $55M respectively.  At the construction costs given for low estimates of $450/sf we divide the given amounts by $450/sf and get 125K sq.ft., 122K sf and 122 sf.  These are all larger than the 116,000 sq.ft. library that was proposed in the 2007 defeated bond measure.  The size proposed in 2007 was well documented - c.f.: http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/11/2007-library-bond-i-how-big.html

This would be the 9th largest library in CA.  Why does the 38th largest city in CA need the 9th largest library?  There do not appear to be any documents justifying this size.  For comparison, Our current library is 60,000 sq. ft., Santa Clara's is 80,000 SF, Cupertino's is 54,000 sf, and Mountain View's is 60,000 sf.  ABA worked on the interior design of a library as big as this current proposal in Virginia in 2014.  It is a joint library shared with the local community college and the city.  It can be seen here: http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2015/09/aba-libraries.html . Here are some pictures:

125,000 sq. ft. library.  Same size ABA proposes for Sunnyvale
It is 2 stories - same as proposed Sunnyvale library

Other libraries a little smaller (116K SF) and a little larger (144K SF) than that size can be seen here:

Size of New City Hall:

A new city hall sharing space with Nova is costed in the same scenarios C, E.1, and E.2.  They cost $41M, $39M and $38M which at $550/sf gives the proposed city hall size of 74,700 sf, 70,000 sf, and 70,000 sf.  I have not seen any justification for this space requirement.  It should be justified.

Size of New Public Safety Building:

Scenarios E.1 and E.2 show brand new public safety buildings. They cost $44.3M and $38.3M which at a cost of $600/sf gives sizes of 74,000 sf and 64,000 sf respectively.  Why the 10,000 sq.ft. discrepancy?  Why that size and not larger or smaller?  There is apparently no supporting documentation for these sizes.

Parking Structures:

The parking structures are extremely expensive.  The totals for all parking structures in each of scenarios A through E.2 range from a high of $41.7M to a low of $26.9M with an average over the six scenarios of $32.8M.  That is almost as much as brand new city hall or public safety building.  Given how empty existing parking is day or night, it seems extremely odd that so much parking is being provided.  And two of the scenarios put the parking structures right along El Camino.  What an ugly concept! This

is to be replaced with this?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Civic Center Change Scenarios - Part 1

Before showing the scenarios, a little history for context.


Sunnyvale has been making plans to remake the Civic Center for a while now.  Here is one from 2003 by an architect the city hired.

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For $90M it would have:

1. added 40,000 sq. ft. to the existing 60,000 sq. ft. library for a total size of 100,000 square feet (Santa Clara's library is 80,000 sq. ft., Mountain View's is 60,000 sq. ft., Cupertino's is 54,000 sq. ft.)

2.  added a net 128,000 sq. ft. to city hall (149,000 sq. ft. 5 story addition less 21,000 sf demolished)

3.  added 9,000 sf to the public safety building (police and fire depts.).

The above picture is from the February 2003 Civic Center Redevelopment Feasibility Study - front cover below (click to enlarge):

That was 2003 and if the City Council of the time had gone with that simple plan, there would have been no need for a library bond issue, and all public safety officers and city employees would have had lots of office space (more than needed since staff levels are lower now than in 2003).

So here it is 2015, 12 years later and no closer to expanded library facilities, or more room for public safety, and city staff.  "Redevelopment" is now called "Modernization". And Sunnyvale has spent $400,000 for Anderson Brule Architects (ABA) to pretend they are getting public input when it has all been decided before hand.  On to the show.

City Councilman Jim Davis's Proposal

Before we get into the scenarios presented by ABA we need to present one proposed by City Council Member Jim Davis, a former public safety officer in Sunnyvale.  We support this as incurring the least disruption to the current Civic Center and being the least costly and so least likely to serve as justification for selling or 99-year leasing parts of the Civic Center.  Existing buildings are in red.  A new city hall and an add-on to the library are in blue.

"The Farce Awakens":

The city of Sunnyvale sponsored a set of 3 workshops run by ABA to receive public input.  There was one for everyone to give their input over certain issues such as where to locate a new library or a new public safety building (Police and Fire dept.)

At this first one, a lot of people said they liked the library as it is and asked why couldn't a simple add-on suffice for a larger library (it has been expanded several times) and likewise for city hall.  This clearly was not what Pamela Anderson Brule of ABA wanted to hear (no fat commissions there) so at the end of the workshop she declared that the participants weren't representative of the people in general leading everyone to wonder "if we're not representative, why hold a 'workshop' to ask our opinions?"

The workshop for the commissioners and boards on August 26th and the 3rd Community Workshop on Oct. 3rd were limited in scope.  Participants were invited to plan out a scenario for a new Civic Center but with certain constraints they had to include such as selling or 99-year leasing parts of the Civic Center to private development to pay for it all or to allow for a certain (large) amount of underground parking.  Deborah and I attended the one for commissioners as observers and saw it was a rigged farce.  We debated boycotting the one for the general public but figured that would play into the hands of ABA and the city.

Here are some of the scenarios drawn up by the general public and the corresponding scenarios as done by ABA.  The first one is an "Open Space Scenario" from the public followed by one from ABA.

"Open Space Scenario" from the public

Open Space Scenario" from ABA

Clearly, ABA fronts all the buildings along El Camino and Mathilda, and does all new construction while the public wants to keep greenery along the roads and reuse existing buildings.  We all are concerned with recycling cans, bottles, paper etc., but re-using buildings doesn't generate much in architectural fees so ABA minimizes re-use.

Below are more scenarios on the left drawn up by the public.  ABA's versions are on the right.  Click on any image to enlarge it.

In every case, ABA has added (very expensive) underground parking, and moved buildings to front on El Camino thereby removing that refreshing row of trees that breaks up the visually exhausting string of buildings growing ever higher along that street.  ABA has also extended out to Mathilda more buildings and included more retail space when that scenario called for it.  The net effect of ABA's modifications is to make it all much more expensive and destroy the greenery currently seen along El Camino and Mathilda.  The intention apparently is to make it all so very expensive the city will be "forced" to sell or 99-year lease away much of the Civic Center to a developer to pay for it.

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Part 2 with $ cost can be seen here: