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Media Coverage
Richmond Balks At Seismic Retrofits
June 27, 1996


Thursday, June 27, 1996
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND The City Council has rejected a proposed $22.7 million seismic retrofit of City Hall and the Hall of Justice buildings, citing numerous problems with the plan.

But the council stopped short of rejecting the project outright. It voted late Tuesday night to ask for more information on a different method of financing earthquake repairs.

Studies have shown that the two buildings could partially collapse if a large quake rattles the Hayward fault.

The initial proposal would have involved the city issuing bonds, then making debt payments out of the general fund of about $1.3 million per year.

Councilwoman Lesa McIntosh moved that the council accept the plan. Three other council members went along with her, including Nat Bates. Mayor Rosemary Corbin abstained.

Corbin then changed her vote to a "yes," saying she had some reservations about specifics but didn't want to sink the project. That would have given it majority support.

Suddenly, Bates a fierce opponent of the mayor said he was changing his vote to a "no."

"It's perverse," Corbin said Wednesday. "I can't explain it. That's not the way to run a government."

On Wednesday, Bates denied any political motivation. "It didn't have anything to do with Rosemary. It had to do with reevaluating the competency of our staff (to direct the project)," he said.

Following the vote, Councilman John Marquez bemoaned what he called a lack of leadership on the part of the council. Earlier that evening, it had voted not to refer a $62 million public works and recreation bond measure to the ballot. Marquez supported both the bond measure and the retrofit project.

Also supporting the retrofit was Irma Anderson. Donna Powers, Alex Evans and Tom Butt voted against it. Vice Mayor Richard Griffin was absent.

Evans then proposed that the staff come back with more information about an alternative financing method for the project. That method would potentially involve a third party financing the work, which would then be reimbursed out of the city's general fund. It could save the city money, finance staff said.

Both Evans and Corbin said Wednesday that it might also give the city more time to reevaluate its priorities for retrofitting.

Since the city will not have the public facilities bond measure on the ballot this year, some of the projects to have been funded under that bond should be considered within the seismic project, both said.

Corbin gave one example. Some of the city's fire stations are so susceptible to quake damage that they are now equipped with chain saws to cut open their building's doors in an emergency.

"Giving them chain saws to get out their doors is not a long-term solution," Corbin told the council.

Corbin said it might be smarter to upgrade City Hall to a lesser standard than originally planned, freeing up money for the fire stations.

Evans said a delay might give the council and the community a chance for more input into the project something that Councilman Tom Butt has called for.


Butt has even suggested that the city consider replacing the two buildings.

Evans' call for more information on the alternative financing was supported by all but McIntosh, who voted no, and Marquez, who abstained.