What did city officials not know, and when did they not know it?
The 1996 Measure I Initiative called for the “relocation and consolidation of civic offices in the downtown.” But the new City Hall complex at Fourth and E. Santa Clara St. was not built large enough to provide the consolidation of city offices called for in the ballot measure.
The following excerpt, from a May 2, 2002 article in the Mercury News, puts the issue in perspective:
In the year 2002, the indication from city officials was that the city would have to lease additional space by 2007 or 2008. This revelation went against a 1998 city planning document that stated the new civic center project would accommodate the city’s workforce for at least 30 years.
That came as worrisome news to at least one councilmember, David Cortese, who argued in favor of the project during a debate Wednesday at the San Jose Rotary Club. In an interview hours after the debate, Cortese said officials have not told the council about the need to lease space so soon after the $343 million City Hall would open. “It would give me pause,” Cortese said. “This is being presented as a panacea for all of our space needs, and if it is not going to be that, we need to know now.”
He (Deputy City Manager Terry Roberts) said an unanticipated increase in employees since 1998 . . . caused the city to predict a need for additional space much sooner than it thought . . . . But Cortese said he sat through hours of briefings on the City Hall proposal and that the issue has never come up. “I don’t understand why that was never presented to us,” he said.
If it was clear to city planners at some point that the new civic center was not designed large enough to meet the city’s needs and the requirements of Measure I, why was the construction of a 100-foot diameter, customized-glass rotunda ever allowed to go forward?
Here are some remaining unanswered questions relative to the new complex:
—Exactly how much did the rotunda cost?
—Why were redevelopment agency offices moved into the building ahead of city departments? (The RDA is an agency, not a city department.)
—Are city departments being charged “rent” on an equal basis?
—How many city employees (excluding police/fire/libraries) have offices outside of the complex, and at what cost?