Officials from the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) continue on their cross-city public relations tour to promote the construction of a new downtown civic center. Last week, the group showed their stuff to a near-empty house at Serra Mesa Library. On May 27, after playing his presentation for councilmembers on San Diego City Council’s Rules Committee, CCDC vice president of redevelopment Jeff Graham went away knowing he gained one superfan of the project: Council President Ben Hueso.
The CCDC already knows what councilmember Carl DeMaio thinks. For months, DeMaio has issued memos, alerted the media to conflicting financial analyses, and sent memos to the mayor and other councilmembers, urging them to oppose the project. And even though he doesn’t sit on the Rules Committee, DeMaio dropped by to make sure everyone knows he’s not a fan.
“There’s a lot of manipulation in the numbers, and I’m concerned about that,” said DeMaio, who was winded from running into the meeting to have a chance to speak. “Based on these problems, I feel it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to reject the new city hall concept outright.”
Soon after DeMaio addressed his colleagues from the podium, the councilmembers on the committee commented on the proposal.
Council president Ben Hueso spoke up next. “Now’s the time to do it. I’ve had an opportunity to work in this building for nearly ten years. I was in an office that didn’t have a window. It didn’t have adequate electrical…uh, it was very, very unhealthy. This building is a biological petri dish. When someone gets sick in this building, everyone gets wiped out on the floor….
“This is a time when we need to be visionaries and think about the future,” continued Hueso. “Right now our city hall is a blight [sic]. It’s dysfunctional. It’s a horrible place to work. It’s a stressful place to work. This building is very energy inefficient.”
After Hueso, councilmember Donna Frye spoke. Frye asked CCDC vice president Graham for a comparison between the estimated costs to renovate the current city hall building to today’s standards and the cost to build a new civic center.
According to Graham, the cost for renovating and maintaining the current building to meet the needs for the next 30 years is approximately $225 million. The cost to build phase one of the new city hall is $440 million, though not all would be paid for by the City.
“When I buy a car I like to see those numbers,” said Frye.
Hueso interrupted. “Yes, but we want to buy a hybrid, Ms. Frye.”
For the next stop on the civic center tour before going to the full council for debate, go to ccdc.com.