LCF Eyes $11.7 Million City Hall Site at Town Center

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council on Tuesday indicated its willingness to pay $11.7 million to purchase the former Sport Chalet headquarters building at One Sport Chalet Drive for use as a future City Hall, if all checks out following a 90-day due diligence period.
City operations long ago outgrew the current 7,160 square-foot building at 1327 Foothill Blvd., said City Manager Mark Alexander, who has seen staff grow from 10 members to 48 in his 28 years working for LCF.
The Sport Chalet offices, with 24,000 square feet of open floor space, would allow staff to more efficiently and effectively serve the community, he added.
The office building was vacated when the Sport Chalet sporting goods chain declared bankruptcy and closed all of its stores — including the 45,000-square foot, now-vacant flagship store next door in the Town Center — earlier this year.
The move would not be an indication of a desire to grow local government, Mayor Jonathan Curtis said, but to improve functionality: “If you’ve ever taken a tour [of the current City Hall], people are packed in like sardines … so ultimately, we’re not getting the customer service that I think another facility might expand on.”
Under the proposed agreement, the city will pay a deposit of $250,000, with $5.65 million (including that deposit) to be paid upon the close of escrow, and with the delivery of a promissory note worth $6.05 million secured by a deed of trust. That 24-month promissory note will require no monthly payments nor accrue any interest during its term as the city works to determine a permanent financing mechanism, such as a loan.
The City Council voted 5-0 to approve $75,000 to fund consultants to complete a thorough investigation of everything from the physical structure to financing options over the next 90 days, as well as a potential $25,000 for the possible acquisition of some of the furnishings inside.
Despite the large expense of the potential purchase, Dan Jordan, the city’s finance director, indicated that the city’s level of reserves still would exceed 100% of its annual operating budget.
Alexander said the city would look into selling the current City Hall, which was built in 1971, purchased in the early 1990s and already has been paid for in full. The proceeds from that potential sale would help replenish reserves.
Operating out of the former Sport Chalet headquarters also would offer the city additional revenue opportunities: Its 24,000 square feet is divided equally into two floors, only one of which is likely to be used by the city.
“That would make the other floor available for different uses,” Alexander said. “One might be to use that floor for rental income, or it might be to separate that into a condo-type format and sell off the additional floor, which would reduce the total purchase price. Another [option] would be to partner with a community group that can make use of that.”
The property also is home to a Montessori school, which is leased from the current property owner, La Cañada Properties, for about $84,000 per year. The school’s current lease runs through 2024, with an option to be extended until 2029.
La Cañada Properties approached the city a year ago asking if the city might be interested in relocating to the space, which was originally listed for $14 million.
Then-Mayor Dave Spence formed an ad hoc committee to investigate whether the building, which had been used solely as the Sport Chalet headquarters since its construction in 2002, would also work as the city’s headquarters.
“I have to confess that when we first got an offer to look at this … I looked at Mark and I said, ‘Boy, this is something that worries me, it’s an awful lot of money and I’m not sure we can really make this work,’” Spence said. “But after the due diligence and the work of the staff and our city attorney and everyone who’s been really looking at everything to go over this project with a fine-toothed comb, I became more convinced that this is the way we should move.”
Alexander said there also was consideration of renovating or expanding the current City Hall, which would come with an approximate price tag of between $10 and $12 million. Even updating the current space to meet all of the necessary Americans With Disabilities Act requirements would be costly, perhaps as much $1.8 million, according to Edward Hitti, director of public works.
“After exploring those options, the recommendation of the committee to look at the former Sport Chalet headquarters offices seemed to fit within the needs of the city,” Alexander said. “As well as its location being central to the community, and also being able to provide a synergy for the Town Center.”
A move would alleviate ongoing parking problems at the current City Hall, said Alexander, who reminded those in attendance that the limited current lot space is nowhere sufficient for the public or the personnel who work there. He reported that the Sport Chalet building comes with about 100 parking spaces, including 48 beneath the building, as well as the approximately 570 available for retail shoppers.
LCF resident Wes Seastrom, an active community member who serves on the Public Safety Commission, expressed enthusiasm for the purchase and relocation.
“Since the city was formed, it has been run very fiscally conservatively, mean and lean, and I have great confidence in the current city staff that it would remain that way,” Seastrom said. “You have an opportunity and it does not come up very often; there are not many buildings in town that would fill the needs of the community. You need to take advantage of it.”

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