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Huntington Beach council debates whether to raze old senior center site or fix it

Senior Center

The roof leaks over the stage and throughout the facility at the Rogers Senior Center in 2013. 

(SCOTT SMELTZER / HB Independent)

One thing seems sure about the old Michael E. Rodgers Seniors’ Center. Its life as a center for seniors is over.

A new senior center, three times larger than the old site, is expected to open later this year at Huntington Beach Central Park.

But will the old building be converted for use as a meeting place for community and nonprofit groups or turned into a veterans hall? Or should it be torn down and the site turned into a park?

The City Council discussed these options Monday during another study session on the matter.

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The project was last discussed at a study session in February, when Mayor Pro Tem Dave Sullivan and Councilman Erik Peterson proposed that part of the 12,000-square-foot building, at Orange Avenue and 17th Street, be converted to a veterans hall.

Last year, it seemed that the site was destined for the construction of 22 homes and a park, but Newport Beach-based developer Christopher Homes backed out of the negotiating agreement with the city in December following opposition from residents.

On Monday, representatives of the community services, public works and police departments proposed that a rejuvenated Rodgers be open part-time for things like community and police activity league meetings.

Part or all of the site could also be demolished for $50,000 to $70,000 to be used as a public park.

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Janeen Laudenback, director of community services, estimated that converting the entire area into a park would cost about $1.5 million.

Currently, the old site, which was deeded to the city in 1911 for park and recreation use before being converted into a senior center in 1975, is being used for recreation classes and programs to promote healthy aging, outreach to frail and homebound seniors, instructional classes, dance lessons and meeting space for local nonprofit groups.

All of those activities would be transferred to the new senior center, Laudenback said.

She said costs to keep the old center in operation, like custodial maintenance, estimated at $15,000 annually, and a two-person staff, at $25 per hour each, should be considered.

Repairs to the building would also by costly. What was described as first-tier repairs — including roof, door, wall and concrete fixes — would cost $290,000. Second-tier repairs — like electrical, lighting and fire alarm system upgrades as well as sewage and wastewater piping repairs — would cost $570,000, city officials said.

Laudenback said revenue generated from rentals should cover operating costs and suggested the possibility of grant funding or help from the Huntington Beach Police and Community Foundation and various veterans groups.

Mayor Jim Katapodis asked if the site could also be used for private purposes, like wedding receptions, birthday parties and quinceaneras. Laudenback advised that those kinds of events could “disturb neighbors” and said the site would be better used for nonprofits.

Community CenterCommunity Center , built in 1898 and the oldest residence in the city,

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Councilwoman Jill Hardy, who lives close to the Newland House, on Beach Boulevard near Adams Avenue, said noise from parties can often disturb the surrounding neighborhoods. She also emphasized that the old senior center building should be used by the community.

“I think it’s important that whatever happens with this piece of land, whether we look at the building or park, I think we should honor the original deed and keep it as a community service space, whether there’s a building there or not,” she said.

Sullivan said the building should not be demolished and that the area be utilized for all the proposed uses, including park space and a community center.

“I think it’s clear that the people in the area want a park,” he said. “However, I think all of this is possible. I think it’s very possible that a lot of the existing parking lot can be changed to fields. As far as the facility, I feel there is a real need in the community for space. I don’t think there will be any problem with the demand. We have this asset. I think it would be foolish to tear it down.”


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