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The LAUSD Deserves an A for the Beaudry Building

Genethia Hudley Hayes is an LAUSD board member

The Los Angeles Unified School District took a bold and decisive step when it approved the purchase of a downtown office building for its new administrative headquarters.

In making this decision, the Board of Education was mindful of the desperate need for new schools in the central city area, as well as the long-term financial health of the district. Now critics claim that the selection of the building at 333 S. Beaudry St. is a mistake, that the building is too big, too expensive and poorly located.

But buying the Beaudry Street building--instead of leasing it or continuing to occupy six separate downtown facilities--makes sense both financially and practically.

Two factors prompted the district’s search for new administrative headquarters. The first was to allow two district-owned sites to be used for the construction of new schools. These schools, one or both of which will be a much-needed high school, will together house 4,000 students. Because the district already owns the land, the schools can be built more quickly. There will be no eminent domain proceedings and no relocation of current homeowners or businesses, and the demolition of old buildings can begin as soon as the current staff is vacated.

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All this, and the district will save the $26 million it would otherwise cost to buy two equivalent pieces of land.

Second, the district needs a more efficient way to house its administrative staff, who are currently scattered in six downtown facilities. This dispersal of staff is extremely impractical. Frequently, staff must travel between sites for meetings. Each downtown office has its own common area functions such as reception areas, storage spaces, conference rooms and kitchens--duplication that adds 10% to 15% in administrative operating costs. Some sites, most notably the current headquarters, are cramped and antiquated. And others are prohibitively expensive.

For these reasons, the LAUSD needs a new headquarters. And because of application deadlines for state school construction funds as well as a lease expiration, we need to find them quickly.

Despite the time consideration, however, the decision to buy the Beaudry Street building was not made rashly. The LAUSD enlisted the services of a space-planning consulting firm that conducted a study on the facilities needs of the central administration. The district then searched for facilities that matched this firm’s space and use recommendations, narrowed its choices to seven and selected the Beaudry Street building.

While the locations of the seven buildings were not discussed in public--for the very practical reason that we did not want the owners of the buildings to compare terms and inflate their prices--the board was kept informed every step of the way.

Purchasing this downtown office building is the right thing to do. It makes sense financially; while $74.5 million--the building’s purchase price--is no small amount of money, this initial expenditure will result in major long-term savings. Even if you add in the $15 million it will take for mechanical and code compliance upgrades, the LAUSD’s chief financial officer and the district’s commercial realty advisor estimate that purchasing the Beaudry Street building rather than remaining in our current mixture of owned and leased facilities will save the district $85 million over the next 30 years.

This decision also makes sense in practical terms. It ensures that all key administrative functions will be in the same location. The building is located in roughly the center of the district, making it easier for school-based staff and parents to travel to headquarters.

And size certainly matters, too. By purchasing such a large building, the district has ensured that its need for space--an estimated 907,000 square feet--will be adequately met.

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It is better to find a permanent answer to the headquarters issue rather than resort to a stopgap measure.

In making this decision, the board considered the big picture. Everyone wins.


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