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At the Wednesday-morning meeting of the San Diego City Council’s rules committee, councilmembers Tony Young, Kevin Faulconer, Donna Frye, and Todd Gloria (council president Ben Hueso was at a Coastal Commission meeting) requested that the full city council hear a proposal to enter into exclusive negotiations with Oregon-based developer Gerding Edlen to raze the current civic center and replace it with a $440 million city hall complex.

For more than two hours, city councilmembers listened to presentations from Jeff Graham, vice president of redevelopment for the Centre City Development Corporation; Bob Hunt, from real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle; and Brent Gaulke, a representative from developer Gerding Edlen.

After the presentation, the four councilmembers discussed the project.

District 3 councilmember Todd Gloria addressed concerns from councilmember Carl DeMaio -- that real estate consultant Ernst and Young deemed keeping the current city hall building was the most viable option for the city.

“I did want to clarify something that I had heard one of my colleagues say to the local media -- that Ernst and Young was recommending the 'hold steady' alternative. Is that correct?”

“No, that is not correct,” responded Ernst and Young representative Steve Klett from the podium. “We didn’t make any recommendations. That’s not what we were paid to do.”

Gloria also asked whether the City could realize savings from building a new city hall sooner than the ten-year projections made by real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle.

“The worst gap in any [development] scenario is slightly over a million dollars a year,” answered Jones Lang LaSalle representative Bob Hunt. “Now, if it was 10 or 20 a year, we’d say that’s a huge risk, but there’s so many levers you could address during negotiations with the developer to close that gap. There’s a variety of different tactics we could take during negotiations to try and do it.”

Minutes later, councilmember Donna Frye spoke.

“I think we need to be as up front as possible: this will cost money. So, let’s just say it’s going to cost money. Tell the public what it’s going to cost and be straight about it instead of telling the people it’s free. It’s not free. It’s going to cost a whole bunch of money.”

Afterward, Frye asked Gaulke -- the representative for the developer -- for a rough estimate of what it would cost to add a new central library into the proposal.

“[Gerding Edlen’s] strategy has always been that we are here to represent what the city wants. I think it’s very doable…but, there is a cost associated with doing that…”

“What do you expect that cost to be?” interrupted Frye.

“Ballpark, around $200,000,” responded Gaulke.

“Whew. Just to ask that question? When this comes before the city council, I really want to have a better understanding of the immediate costs. So, if my request is a $200,000 request, then, you know, I’d like to have a more firm number.”

For more on the new city hall proposal, go to ccdc.org.

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