There’s a minor error in the story below … Measure B was a general plan amendment that that rezoned open space to allow for the city hall to relocate from the Peninsula to Newport Center. Measure B WAS NOT a bond measure to finance the city hall project. The project’s financing was NEVER approved by voters. “Certificates of Participation” were used to finance the Taj – they don’t require a public vote. It’s a sneaky way to encumber debt without the public’s support. So, we got a $130ish million debt without ever voting on it.
New council seeks insight on Civic Center costs
By Hannah Fry
6:23 PM PST, January 16, 2015
Before Newport Beach embarks on any other building projects, the City Council wants to review how the controversial Civic Center project got off track with unexpected costs and reflect on any lessons learned.
To that end, the council held a study session Tuesday to discuss a staff report on the matter, including a cost analysis of the roughly $142.5-million project and line-item details.
When the Civic Center opened in May 2013, some residents saw it as a symbol of irresponsible spending by a government that was out of touch with the community.
The candidate slate known as “Team Newport,” made up of Mayor Pro Tem Diane Dixon and councilmen Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, Scott Peotter and Kevin Muldoon, made the expensive building a cornerstone of its campaign in November’s election, likening it to the Taj Mahal.
When the group claimed their seats on the council in December, Dixon asked that city staff provide a recap of the scope of the project, as well as any lessons that could be gleaned for future projects. For instance, the previous council said a new Newport Beach Police Department headquarters would be necessary in the coming years.
The Civic Center was funded in large part by Measure B, a bond measure narrowly passed by city voters in 2008. The city covered the remaining cost of the project, according to budget documents presented to the council.
During the campaign for Measure B, the total cost of the Civic Center was estimated at $100 million. However, as years passed, the scope of the project expanded, ultimately including the council chambers, city office building, a 16-acre park with more than a mile of trails, a 450-space parking structure and the 17,000-square-foot expansion of the central library, City Manager Dave Kiff said.
“The Measure B campaign may not have had strong cost analyses — especially for the soft costs, the environmental impact report, the park and more,” according to city documents presented to the council. “As a result, it offered an indefinable cost for a vague project. The public understandably expected this cost at the end.”
The concrete cottontails perching at Civic Center park have also been criticized as an excess associated with the building of City Hall.
The city paid $221,000 for 14 rabbits measuring 4 feet tall, plus a pair of 8-foot bunnies, one of which sits on its haunches near the library while the other looks out from a post closer to the Civic Center.
“The rabbits were included in the landscape package, and we were not aware of the line-item cost,” city staff wrote. “If we had known the line-item cost, we probably would have deleted or replaced them with something more modest.”
However, staff said that there were many “moving parts” to the project and the team was “focused on bigger ticket items that could prove disastrous if mishandled.”
Kiff outlined other lessons learned through the project in his presentation to the council Tuesday, many of which focused on city transparency of the process.
Councilman Keith Curry, who was mayor when the project was being built, defended the project throughout the campaign season. To those who criticize the scope of the project he asks, “tell us what we shouldn’t have built.”
Duffield and Dixon both spoke during the study session about using the information provided when building other city projects.
“I think all is good,” Duffield said. “I don’t want to look back on this.”