A bond measure was among several options discussed at last week’s City Council / Recreation and Parks Commission liaison meeting as a way to fund the transformative La Cienega Park renovation. The first phase is estimated to cost $125.5 million.
The liaison consisted of Vice Mayor Lester Friedman, City Councilman Julian Gold and Recreation and Parks Commission Chair Alissa Roston and Vice Chair Julian Javor. The four discussed possible means of funding the capital costs of the center, the next steps for developing an actual design for the building and substantiating potential operating costs for the new center.
“After months of community outreach and stakeholder participation, the City now has a good sense of the programs we would like to see at the new La Cienega Park Community Center,” Gold said. “We now need to work with our finance team to determine the best way to fund this. While bond funding may be part of the answer, it is too early in the process to make any firm decisions.”
In addition to discussing tax revenue options and various bond measures, including a possible general obligation bond or a lease-revenue bond, the liaison also discussed the potential of a general tax. However, staff has yet to determine the viability of having any measure on the upcoming March ballot.
The community has taken an active role over the past year in providing input as to how the La Cienega Park and Recreation Complex should be transformed in the coming years. Scores of people filled the community center back in September for a Town Hall that offered a first look at how the site could look following extensive community feedback.
At the heart of the renovation will be the replacement of the existing 23,000-square- foot Community Center with a new 172,000-square-foot center. Current plans include the creation of two pools, 16 tennis courts and a pre-school, in addition to a host of athletic amenities.
The liaison also decided to issue an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) to solicit bids from various architects who may wish to move forward. Now I’m hearing very loud and clear that everybody will still have a job and perhaps a better job and better benefits. That makes me feel more comfortable in the labor element.”
Alvarez remains skeptical, however.
“We hope that the Council will hold Athens to this commitment that the workers won’t lose their jobs. We have to make sure that the language about employee retention is strong enough to support the workers,” he tells the Courier.
The lack of competitive bidding also received a great deal of attention at the Dec. 10 hearing. But after taking into account industry consolidation and other dynamic market factors, as well as previous responses to RFPs, the general consensus, in the words of Councilman Robert Wunderlich, was that it was “unlikely that we would get a better pricing structure than this.”
Bosse explained that her feelings on the topic of competitive bidding had shifted. “This meeting has been very important in terms of getting a lot of clarity. Intuitively, when you think of giving a 10-year no bid contract, it appears that we’re not being fiscally responsible and we’re not thinking long term. However, in understanding all the moving parts to this, I see it very differently now,” she said.
Shana Epstein, Director of Public Works for the City of Beverly Hills, felt it a misnomer to ever refer to the agreements in question as “no-bid.”
“The contract was let out for an RFP in 2016. We’ve been negotiating ever since,” she told the Courier.
“In the end, we got a great deal and the Council chose to be a leader in sustainability,” Epstein added. work on the project going forward, including current project architect Johnson Favoro.
Following the meeting, Assistant City Manager Nancy Hunt-Coffey told the Courier that staff is now actively researching an array of options related to funding the La Cienega Master Plan. She underscored that nothing has been put forward or decided about funding yet.
“City staff is researching possible funding options for the project. Once this information is gathered, it will go back to the Recreation and Parks City Council Liaison before taking recommendations to City Council,” Hunt-Coffey said. “While this is an expensive project, the community has expressed the desire to enhance the park and build for the future, with the intention that this park will serve the community for the next 50 or more years.”