After 6-Month Search : W. Hollywood Finds City Hall Quarters

Times Staff Writer

After a six-month search, the city of West Hollywood has found a home.

City officials agreed Wednesday to lease for three years the second floor of the office building at 8611 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood's new city hall will open in three weeks, according to Dori Stegman, who headed the search.

Signing of the lease was a relief for city officials, who said they delayed hiring staff and considering other issues because of the lengthy search for permanent offices.

The city has been operating in cramped temporary quarters at Plummer Park since November. Besides the pressures of cramming too many staff members into the small space, the city has faced the wrath of county officials who wanted the space for public use.

A lease with the county for use of Plummer Park's Hall B was extended three times, allowing the city to stay until May 15. The county began charging $300 a day for use of the space after May 15.

Stegman said the new city hall, with 14,000 square feet of space, meets most of the requirements set by the City Council. It is located on a major street with access to bus lines, it has 33 parking spaces and is accessible to the handicapped. On the corner of Westmount Drive, it is also closer to the center of the city than many of the other locations that were considered.

The only drawback, according to city officials, is the rent. At $2.75 per square foot a month, or about $38,500, it is at the high end of the range that the council said it would consider.

"It is more than we wanted to spend and that is the main reason that it is not ideal," said Councilman John Heilman. "But we can afford it and we have to do it. Some people might complain about the price, but unless they can offer another location with enough space that is available, then I don't want to hear it."

Stegman said the city got everything it wanted in the building, making the high price more palatable. "And hopefully that will give us an incentive to get out of there and build our own city hall in three years," she said.

Carpets, ceilings and lights must be installed in the gray and green building before the city can move in.

During the long search staff members considered several locations including an abandoned mortuary and a vacant nightclub. The council also considered the Kenny Rogers Entertainment Center on Sunset Boulevard, but the owner wanted only entertainment-related tenants. Other buildings were too small, too old and run down or failed to provide parking. Many of the landlords wanted leases of five years and more, but the council wanted a maximum three-year lease.

"There is a glut of office space available on the Westside, but unfortunately most of it is not in West Hollywood," Heilman said. "And most of the large office space had already been rented out."

Potential landlords had an advantage in negotiations, because they knew city officials had to stay within the city limits, Heilman said.

City staff will not miss the cramped quarters at Plummer Park, where phone lines dangle from the ceiling and more than a dozen cubicles are crammed into one windowless room.

"There was really extra stress and strain," Stegman said. "I don't think our productivity has been as good. . . . It was hard to hear yourself think, much less make a phone call. We all are going to be extremely relieved to get out of there."

Heilman said the city had not hired more staff members because it "had no place to put them." The city still needs "a few months" to hire department managers that would have been hired by now, he said. It also delayed buying computers and other equipment because of the lack of space.

City Council meetings will continue to be held at Fiesta Hall in Plummer Park or a the West Hollywood Park auditorium. The new city offices do not have room for council chambers.

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