Lot Purchase Unlikely for Simi’s Police Station : Council: Officials back away from buying six-acre parcel from local school district. City likely to build station house on land it already owns.
Concerned about a potential $1-million price tag and legal complications, the Simi Valley City Council is backing away from buying six acres for a new police station from the local school district.
Although no official decision has been made, council members say the city will most likely build its new 47,400-square-foot station house on one of two six-acre parcels it already owns.
“It’s time to play ball,” Councilwoman Barbara Williamson said. “We have property available to us, and I can’t see why we should go and pay in excess of $700,000 or $800,000 when we don’t have to.”
The council discussed the issue Monday night in closed session, but made no decision on whether to break off negotiations for a parcel owned by Simi Valley Unified School District near City Hall, officials said.
Instead, the council will likely select a site the city owns at a public meeting next month, Mayor Greg Stratton said.
“There’s pretty much a consensus among the staff that moving to that (school district) site would be a one-year delay in building the police station,” Stratton said. “I don’t think that’s going to be acceptable.”
The school district wants to sell a piece of its 36-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Tapo Canyon Road and Alamo Street.
But that property is still tied up by a lawsuit filed by a developer who agreed in 1991 to build a shopping center in partnership with the school district. Those plans were rejected last year by the City Council.
A settlement conference scheduled in that case last Friday has been postponed, but a trial date is still scheduled for April, said Mary Beth Wolford, superintendent of the Simi Valley Unified School District.
In addition to cost concerns, council members said they cannot wait for the school district site to become available. They said a city parcel across the street from the school district site would also make a good location for the police station.
A new station is needed because the old one is too small and was seriously damaged in last year’s earthquake.
“We already have land,” Councilwoman Sandi Webb said. “I don’t see why the taxpayers should have to pay for more land. Using one of the city sites will take less time, and we need that police station now.”
Council members said Tuesday that they will continue working with the school district to build another project on the district’s 36-acre parcel, which is zoned for residential use. Councilman Bill Davis mentioned a senior apartment complex or a school administration office as possibilities.
“If they sell the property, the money goes to the state and (the district) only gets a small portion of it,” he said. “If they lease or build on the property, they get everything.”
Consultants have completed preliminary sketches for the $8.2-million police station, Assistant City Manager Don Penman said. Those plans will be refined when a final decision is made on where to build the facility, he said.
Another $1.4 million is needed to furnish and equip the new police station, Penman added.
Davis, a member of the committee looking at city-owned parcels for the police station, said he is leaning toward a six-acre lot off Avenida Simi, instead of the city parcel across from City Hall. That location is better for security reasons, he said.
“It’s over on a side street, it’s not facing Tapo Canyon and it’s not facing Alamo,” Davis said. “It’s also ideal for having underground parking for security, which I think is very vital.”
School officials said they were not disappointed in the council’s plan to reject district property as a police station site.
“If that’s what the city wants to do, that’s fine,” trustee Norm Walker said. “They’re looking for the best location they can find, and as a citizen of the city, I’m happy they can do that.
“The police station is a very important building in our community,” he said. “It needs to be secure and have the right kind of access.”