Council Seeks Design Plans for Stoneman

In attempting to solve the long-running quandary of the city’s Stoneman recreation headquarters, the City Council last week took the smallest of steps — and wasn’t even unanimous in that decision.
The council voted to solicit bids from architectural firms on how much it would cost to produce design drawings for various upgrades, including Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, seismic retrofits, heating and air conditioning, and fire alarms and sprinklers.
Two members of the council, Dr. Steven Huang and Steve Talt, thought the cart was still running two or three blocks ahead of the horse on this issue, and they voted against doing even that.
“I just thought it was kind of premature before we decide what type of direction we should move to,” Huang said later.
Both councilmen expressed a desire to have a deeper evaluation of the Recreation Department and the future plan for Stoneman, a former elementary school that is nearly 90 years old. Talt asked that the City Council next consider forming an ad hoc committee to devise a business plan for Recreation and Stoneman.
The council had been presented with a doozy of a recommendation by the city’s Recreation Commission. At its meeting of Sept. 12, the commission unanimously agreed that the various upgrades of Stoneman were warranted, and recommended that the City Council allocate the necessary money and send the project out for bid.
The cost at that point was $2.28 million, but the figure bumped upward before it could land on the City Council agenda less than three weeks later. Turns out the building’s unreinforced masonry needs a seismic retrofit, so the overall estimated cost is now up to $2.39 million.
“How can you have a bid when you don’t have a drawing, when you don’t have the plans of what you want?” Huang said after the council meeting.
Of the council’s decision to seek a bid for the architectural work, he added, “[The Recreation Commission] should have done that in the first place before we spent 2½ hours on Stoneman alone. It was just a waste of time. They should have done their homework and then brought it to the council.”
Mayor Dr. Allan Yung tried to limit the scope of the Stoneman discussion in the meeting, saying, “We’re not making big changes, we’re just trying to fix something that is falling down.”
Vice Mayor Dr. Richard Sun further added that upgrading the building so that it complies with federal and state standards was a separate issue from the ins and outs of the Recreation Department’s operation.
But several members of the public argued that the issues are closely intertwined, and that the council shouldn’t leap into the decision to appropriate so large a sum. One of speakers, former City Councilman Eugene Sun, said that if he’d known about the extent of the ADA needs (an estimated $1.3 million) and, separately, an unfunded city pension liability that has ballooned to $20 million, he might not have voted to spend $6 million to acquire Stoneman from the San Marino Unified School District in 2012.
If the concept of architectural drawings for Stoneman School sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Two years ago, the city spent $49,000 to have an architectural firm come up with such a plan. Crane Architectural Group of Fullerton determined that it would cost $9.3 million to renovate the building and $7.5 million to demolish it and build new from scratch. But that latter number was for a building that mirrored what is currently there. The addition of a pool would take it north of $10 million. A gym would hike it to at least $12 million.
The architectural bid that the council desires now is for an entirely different scope of work. The $2.39 million estimate it surveyed last week was compiled through the input of various city staff members, City Manager Cindy Collins said. It included $210,000 for architectural drawings and construction documents.
As for the upgrades, a staff report estimated $1.3 million for ADA upgrades; $275,000 for heating, ventilation and air conditioning; $243,061 for abatement of lead paint and asbestos; $200,000 for a fire alarm system and sprinklers; $110,000 for seismic retrofitting; and $50,000 for plumbing.
The improvements would bring the building into compliance with federal ADA law and state fire and seismic standards, and also enable the Recreation Department to expand its preschool program by meeting requirements set by the Los Angeles County Community Care Licensing Division.
Assistant City Manager Lucy Garcia said the increased services would generate an additional $100,000 in net revenues annually. But it was evident that the council members were doing the math in their heads: At that rate, it would take a quarter-century for the Recreation Department to make up the cost of the upgrades.
Councilman Richard Ward said he wanted assurances “that this $2.4 million investment is going to be made to keep this building open for 10 to 20 years and use it as the recreation headquarters.” He added that securing the architectural drawings would enable the council “to see what we’ve got. This would somewhat advance the decision about what we do with Stoneman. To this point, it seems like we’ve just been punting this issue down the road from year to year.”
Yung agreed. “If we’re going to do something, everyone is right: We should have a long-term plan and put the building to good use for the next 20 years.
“We’ll ask staff to proceed to take the necessary steps to get the proper appreciation of the costs and uses so we can discuss it again at the next meeting. Once we have all the numbers, we can make a decision.
“Or we can sell the property.”

Leave a Reply