The San Fernando City Council voted Monday night to begin negotiations with Los Angeles County for a land exchange that would enable the city to build a new police station on a large tract near the city's civic center.
At issue in the upcoming city-county talks is how the county would develop the land it would receive from the city. The property is across the street from San Fernando City Hall and council members said its development is crucial to the appearance and operation of the civic center.
City officials said they would like to see the parcel on Macneil Street used for a county library. County officials are unwilling to commit themselves to a specific project because of the uncertainty of funding. But they have assured San Fernando officials that a "cultural facility" is likely for the land, City Administrator Donald Penman told the council.
The 4-1 council decision clears the way for city and county officials to draw up a compromise list of potential county uses for the parcel, where the city's police station is now situated.
Councilwoman Cam Noltemeyer voted against the negotiation, arguing that an option of remodeling the existing police station had not been adequately studied.
But Councilman Roy Richardson called for a new police station, saying, "We are not discussing remodeling a bedroom in a residence. To attempt to go through remodeling and reconstructing while police are working in the building is unthinkable."
Council members told city staff to negotiate a specific timetable for development, and restrictions for the use of the land given to the county.
$2 Million for Station
"Once we have decided what the future use of the land should be, we are looking at a period of a year to a year and a half before construction on the new station begins," Penman said.
The City Council last summer voted to spend $2 million to either renovate the existing police station or build a new one.
In October, the city proposed exchanging its 31,000-square-foot police station site on Macneil Street for the county's half-interest in a 42,000-square-foot parking lot across the road at First and Brand streets. The city owns the other half of the parking lot.
The deal was proposed to enable San Fernando to have a bigger and more desirable piece of land for a new police station.
Preliminary plans call for the city to demolish the existing police station after the new station is built and then turn the vacant lot over to the county, Penman said.
Council members said they wanted a guarantee the property would not be vacant indefinitely and become an eyesore in the middle of the civic center area.
"Obviously our first priority for the site is going to be a library," Penman said. "Other compromises could include a courthouse extension or any general county administrative office building."
Should city and county officials fail to agree on potential uses for the site, San Fernando still could choose to remodel its existing station, Penman said.
City officials said the 30-year-old Macneil Street police station has become obsolete because most of the building consists of unused jail cells. The station was built when cities jailed convicted criminals.
"The lunch room is in the men's locker room. There is no conference room. The women's shower room is a converted jail cell," Penman said.