Running out of space in its cramped temporary quarters, the West Hollywood City Council may finally be able to move into a more spacious City Hall, according to the chairman of a committee charged with finding permanent city headquarters.
But several council members, critical of the location of the proposed interim City Hall and its inaccessibility to the rest of the city, say they are uncertain whether they would approve leasing the building.
"We're under increasing pressure to move," said Councilman Alan Viterbi. "I'm just not sure that this is the right place."
John Parks, a real estate dealer who heads the City Hall search committee, is sure. After he and his committee looked at a number of other West Hollywood sites--including a mortuary, a medical arts building and a plant shop--they concluded unanimously that a vacant two-story building in the 600 block of North La Peer Drive was "the only real option we've got."
Major considerations in the committee's choice, Parks said, were the building's size, inexpensive monthly lease and condition. "All the other places we've seen were inconvenient, dark, gloomy old shacks," he said.
7,800 Square Feet
The La Peer building contains 7,800 square feet of space, well within the council's condition of finding a building with 5,000 to 8,000. Parks said the building would have ample space for the 20 offices the council would require--compartments for the five council members, five aides, the city attorney, the city manager and two assistants, a rent control administrator and the rest for secretaries and clerks.
"It's practically ready to go," Parks said. "There's a good carpet in, there's grass cloth wallpaper. All we'd need to do is hire a planner to do some interior work and partition off the offices."
Parks said the building could be leased at $8,000 a month, a "good price in the area. That's about a dollar a square foot. Most decent office buildings in West Hollywood go for between $1.50 and $1.75 a square foot, so price is a consideration here, too."
He pointed to the building's accessibility--it is between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue and has a bus stop next door. "It's right near the West Hollywood Park Auditorium, which would be perfect when they had council meetings," Parks said.
And Parks said he expected that the City Council could also rent as many as 40 parking spaces across the street.
He and other committee members were planning to discuss the site at tonight's council meeting and recommend that the council adopt the site. Parks said the committee would like to see the council stay in the building for the next three or four years until a permanent city headquarters can be built.
Parks said the committee favors a "lease buy-back" plan under which a developer would build the new headquarters and lease it to West Hollywood under an arrangement that would allow the lease payments to be used as payments for the building.
"That way we could eliminate a costly capital project that would entail floating a construction bond," said Viterbi, who admits to being intrigued by the plan.
But Viterbi and other council members are not as intrigued about the interim quarters chosen by the committee. "It's a nice place but we're not crazy about the location," Viterbi said.
Councilmember Steve Schulte said the council wanted to find a building closer to the center of the city "so everyone could have access." The La Peer Drive site is near the city's western edge.
Schulte is also concerned about the location on a narrow side street. "We were looking for something more on a main avenue, like Santa Monica Boulevard," he said. "My inclination would be to keep looking."
That may become more difficult in coming months. The council has hired five aides and other staff and, with files and other materials beginning to stack up in its small one-room office in Plummer Park, may soon be forced to move.
Parks doubts that a better location can be found on such short notice. "Nothing's surfaced in the last two weeks," he said. "We've made pitches on local cable television. We've checked with all the major commercial real estate brokers. It's the only possibility we've got."