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Nine To Study Needed Work At City Hall
October 10, 1996



Thursday, October 10, 1996
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND The City Council has voted to appoint a nine-member committee of "citizen experts" to explore options for making City Hall safe in an earthquake.

Those options could include retrofitting, upgrading or replacement. Studies have shown that the two buildings could partially collapse if a large quake rattles the Hayward fault.

The council was unsatisfied with city staff recommendations for the project, which they said failed to answer some important questions.

"I've not been impressed by the presentations and analysis and options we've gotten to date," Councilman Alex Evans said Wednesday.

In June, the council rejected a $22.7 million seismic retrofit and upgrade of City Hall and the Hall of Justice buildings, citing numerous problems with the plan. Council members asked the financial staff to provide more information on a different method of funding. That is expected within the month.

The citizens committee was the brainchild of Councilman Tom Butt. He described his reasoning in an Aug. 26 letter to the council.

Many questions have been raised about the cost, the temporary buildings that would be needed to relocate staff, the scope of work, the scheduling and the funding, he said.

The creation of a citizens panel was successful in Los Angeles when it was undertaking its City Hall retrofit, Butt said.

He also said the city needs an "objective" panel to review the project to "revive confidence of the City Council and the citizens of the city of Richmond in the project."

The panel should be made up of people who are experts in architecture, structural engineering, construction and facilities management, Butt said.

Voting in favor of the citizens committee, in addition to Butt, were Mayor Rosemary Corbin and council members John Marquez, Alex Evans and Donna Powers. Voting against it were Vice Mayor Richard Griffin and Councilwoman Lesa McIntosh. Councilman Nat Bates abstained.

Griffin told the council the committee idea was just an attempt by Butt to bring his architect friends in on the project and get the design he wanted. Butt is an architect.

"It's a political move, that's what it is," Griffin said.

But each council member will be able to select one member of the new committee. Because there may be duplications, the mayor asked each member Tuesday to suggest three names by next week.

Evans and Powers agreed with Butt that the city staff had fallen down on the project.

The council has not seen information about what the value of a new building would be vs. the cost, the value of a retrofitted building vs. the cost, or whether it would be possible to bring the city's Engineering Department back into City Hall. It is now housed across the street, on Macdonald Avenue.

Overall, there were too many unanswered questions, Evans said. "I don't know how you vote for something like that."

While not criticizing staff, Corbin said it might be smarter to upgrade City Hall to a lesser standard than originally planned, freeing up money for other earthquake-related safety improvements. For instance, some of the city's fire stations need upgrading, Corbin said.