Mayor Jerry Sanders presented revised plans he says will save the city millions, while critics say there may be other options.

You may have read about the Mayor Jerry Sanders’ plans for a new $294 million City Hall in today’s Union-Tribune.

Earlier plans for a 34-story building were canned for a more modest design in part because budget problems have forced the city to eliminate roughly 1,400 positions. The city no longer needs the space, the mayor said.

I asked the mayor today whether the decision to build a smaller building meant there were no plans to restore those positions. His answer: Many of those were service positions in departments like library and fire, which are based in neighborhoods, not City Hall.

But if those were already outside of City Hall why were they envisioned in the previous proposal? And why partly justify the project by saying it was downsized because there were fewer city employees?

City Hall jobs have been cut too, Sanders said, and those will be restored in time. When that happens, the city will find other places in the city for those people to work, he said.

So, over the long-term the city will have to go back to leasing more office space to hold employees that don’t fit in City Hall. That’s the current predicament they say they’re solving with the new City Hall proposal.

At an earlier press conference, Councilman Carl DeMaio said the city had not fully explored all its options for saving money without the need for a new, expensive building.

He said the mayor was right in arguing there was no benefit to retrofitting the existing City Hall. But he has advocated renegotiating city leases in other buildings where city employees work and has argued that existing communication technology no longer requires all city departments to be under the same roof.

He said his staff would scrutinize the numbers that provide the basis for the mayor’s cost-saving claims.

“This is going to boil down to not only looking at the financial assumptions, but to San Diegans asking themselves if this is the right project at the right time,” he said.

Charles Black, a real estate executive who presented the mayor’s plans Thursday, said the city had no realistic alternative.

“This is the most inefficient building I’ve ever seen,” he said.


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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