Beverly Hills to Continue Work on Civic Center Without Big Cuts

Times Staff Writer

Despite estimates that the city's new Civic Center will cost $8 million more than expected, the Beverly Hills City Council decided Tuesday to proceed with the project as planned without making major modifications to force savings.

The $8-million increase will push the basic construction costs of the project to $87 million. Interest and other expenses will drive the total cost to $159 million over 20 years.

The city's staff presented the council with a list of potential cuts totaling $3.5 million. However, after two hours of discussion, the council decided that anything more than minor alterations would detract from the aesthetics of the project.

'Little to Be Gained'

Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro, who has criticized the project, said that at this stage there was "little to be gained by making it less attractive."

She joined council members Donna Ellman, Maxwell H. Salter and Benjamin H. Stansbury in urging that cuts be made on "non-essential items but not on the beauty of it."

Ellman said, "We are a world-class city, and we should have a Civic Center that reflects it."

Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum made the only plea to reduce the size of the project.

"I would subscribe to all the cuts," he said. "You have to draw the line somewhere. There are going to be other things that the city is going to have to spend money on."

Eliminating Landscaping

The proposed cuts included the elimination of landscaping in front of City Hall and a firing range from plans for the police station.

A proposal to save $67,000 by using cheaper ceramic tiles, particularly in the new jail cells, was a cut that the council welcomed. Ellman said that she did not see the need for expensive tiles in a jail cell.

Last month, the council asked the city staff to provide a complete review of the costs of the project, which has been delayed for several months by the discovery of potentially dangerous amounts of asbestos in the city's library and water was found under the foundation of the new police station.

The city estimated that it would cost more than $3 million to pay for delays, remove asbestos from the library and redesign the concrete footings in the police station foundation.

The city also estimated higher costs for office furniture, communication equipment, consultants and project managers. And in the end the additional costs had ballooned to more than $8 million.

Salter said that he accepted cost increases in construction as inevitable. "There are never any guarantees that something will not come out of left field," he said.

Stansbury said that there was little the city could do about the costs related to the underground water and asbestos. "Neither one of these problems is a new cost that is avoidable," he said.

Still, Tanenbaum and other council members were concerned about the manner in which the city handled those problems.

For example, Tanenbaum said that he did not understand why additional water tests were not automatically ordered when the city elected to build a deeper structure than they had originally tested for.

He also questioned why it was not assumed that large amounts of the cancer-causing asbestos would not be found in a library which is more than 20 years old.

City Manager Edward S. Kreins told the council that those kinds of problems would not occur in the future.

The project is expected to be completed in two years. The library renovation and the new police station are still under construction. The city has completed work on a fire station and a parking garage.

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