The building had a unique and "interesting" design when it opened in 1980, with its skylights, sloped windows and maximized daylight, but it's been the source of a whole lot of problems over the years, according to Public Works director Mike Fuller. Leaks, glare and heat are ongoing challenges, and the building's durable concrete construction makes the interior inflexible and expensive to modify.
Police standards have also changed over the last 38 years, with a greater need for a juvenile holding area and more space for processing evidence, particularly a secure area for vehicles under investigation. As a safety measure, police officials are also seeking to move the department's armory — which holds explosive materials — out of the middle of the basement and into its own building outside.
All told, city staffers are seeking a design that would bring 13,000 square feet of extra space and about 53 additional parking spaces, for a total of $55 million.
Councilwoman Lisa Matichak said the idea of remodeling and adding to a facility with so many flaws felt like the wrong course of action, amounting to building around a problem. Starting from scratch with a new building might be a better approach, she said, even if it is more expensive.
"Public safety is a huge important service that the city provides, and I'd like to make sure that we have the appropriate space, as well as tools and technology, to evolve as policing has evolved," Matichak said. "And I'm not sure our current building allows us to do that."
While council members agreed to explore the idea of a total re-do of the police and fire building, Mayor Lenny Siegel said he had reservations of scrapping the old building entirely. Not only would it cost more, but it would disrupt the operations of essential city services without a clear alternative location to house them during construction.
"At this point I'm only interested in renovation or an addition," he said.
Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she was "very disappointed" that the city was moving so slowly to upgrade the public safety headquarters, noting that this was the third time since 2013 that she had been asked to weigh in on the design of the building with no real sense of progress since then. Regardless of whether it ends up being a new building or a renovation, she said the city needs to pick up the pace and tap into whatever discretionary funds it needs to in order to finance the project.
The last time the council visited the plans was in April 2014, when Abe-Koga — eight months from being termed out of office — said she looked forward to seeing the project get built "as a citizen' rather than a council member. Abe-Koga was re-elected to the council in 2016.
City Manager Dan Rich told the Voice in an email that the council had picked an option to remodel the building back in 2014, but there was no clear source of funding at the time. The city had explored a sales tax or hotel tax to fund the construction, but it didn't poll well and wasn't guaranteed to clinch the required supermajority. Since then, Rich said the city's expected revenue from the Moffett Gateway hotel project has been earmarked as a way to finance the public safety upgrades.
Given the need to continue police and fire services during construction, Rich suggested at the Dec. 11 meeting that the city may want to study building a new facility in other locations, like one of the city's downtown parking lots.
"Not to say there's another site that would work, but I think we should at least have that on the table," Rich said.
Running concurrently with the design of the future building, the Mountain View Police Department is scheduled in the coming months to do a "staffing study" to better pinpoint how many officers and other police personnel are needed amid the city's high growth projections. This information will to help determine how the remodeled or reconstructed headquarters would best suit the department in future years.
This story contains 773 words.
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