September 11, 2009

Poway's Public Buildings Are On a 25-30 Yr Replacement Schedule

Poway Community Center

Poway Senior Center

I'm from the midwest. When I first saw stucco houses, I thought they were temporary structures built to tide people over because some disaster had befallen them. It took a while, but eventually I got used to stucco buildings as permanent structures. It doesn't have to be made from bricks to last for decades. But I still cannot get used to the idea of "disposable" public buildings.

Poway's first city hall was built for the water district in 1979, a year before Poway incorporated. If I remember correctly, the building was built with thick, reinforced walls, the intent being that it would someday be converted to a sheriff's substation with a jail. That never happened. In 2004, the city built a new $20 million, 50,400 square foot administration center and tore down the old building.

At the time, I thought 25 yrs was really too short a life for a public building. I also thought the new city hall was a tad expensive. For comparison, PUSD just bought a 54,000 sq ft administrative center in Carmel Mtn Ranch. The published asking price is $11.2 million, although PUSD may negotiate a lower price. Granted, PUSD benefitted from buying during the recession, nevertheless their building and the land cost about $207/sq.ft, while Poway's city hall building alone cost $397/sq. ft. Quite a difference.

Today I read an article in MyLocalNews and found out that the City of Poway is planning on "replacing the aging senior center and community center with a new 30,000 square-foot building." "Aging" refers to the building, not the seniors. Really. The senior center is a little over 30 yrs old. That is pretty old in dog years but is 30 yrs really the expected life of a public building?

The senior center was built circa 1976 and remodeled in 1996. The guy who was remodeling it bailed without finishing the project. Luckily, he was bonded and the city did get it finished. In 1999, the roof trusses failed. I'm not sure who did the crappy job on them, or if roof trusses sometimes fail because the building is nearing the end of its useful life. Whatever, they got fixed.

The Poway Redevelopment Agency will have to issue new bonds to pay for the buildings. They will have 30, 40, maybe forever years worth of tax increment money to pay off the bonds. Maybe more if they refinance a few times. The tax increment money is the property taxes from parcels that are located in the redevelopment area. Instead of that money going to the state and paying to finance schools and state government, the tax increment money gets diverted to redevelopment agencies, where folks consider 30 yr old public buildings aged.

They sure don't build them like they used to in the Midwest, do they?

UPDATE: A friend of mine belongs to a group of real estate agents that meets every Friday in the Community Center. They have been meeting there for years, and paying for it too. Recently, the city told them they would no longer be able to set up tables and chairs for their meetings because of the cutback in personnel. The group's fees were not refunded or reduced to compensate.

According to the article the city plans to construct a new center a few feet from where it is now so that the city can minimize staff allocation.

Fuentes added the city would like to build a new 30,000-square-foot “multi-generational facility” closer to the aquatics center so that both could be overseen by the same city staff members.

So, the city plans to spend $10-16 million to build a new community center so the staff doesn't have to walk too far to oversee both buildings. What??? Will the kids have to take a time out at the pool while the lifeguards hustle over to put up tables and chairs at the senior/community center? Because other than the lifeguards, I don't see how moving the senior/ community center a few feet closer to the pool is really going to make that big of a time savings.

The problem seems to be that there are too few people trying to do too much. Insufficient staff. And that seems to beg the question, "How does the city have easy access to $16 million but not enough money to hire sufficient staff?" The answer to that question is that the money to build a new building and the money to pay staff come from 2 different pots of money. Building projects come from redevelopment money and the staff is paid from the general fund, which is always broke lately. The redevelopment agency doesn't necessarily have a lot of money either, but they can always borrow money and pay the bonds off over the next 30 -40 yrs or so. The money to pay them off comes from property taxes, money that would have gone to state and local general funds if it wasn't diverted to a redevelopment agency.

So that is why we have millions of dollars to frivolously replace not-so-old buildings but nadda when it comes to staffing them.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in Poway, and I always admired pictures of those towns with 2-3 story brick buildings lining mainstreet (like the fake Poway in your board game).

Poway never had those. Why not? I figured in the 1970s, nobody built permanent structures. Recession. And I was told you can't build brick in earthquake country.

Now I'm thinking that's all nonsense. The Senior Center is still new in my faded memory.

Economics aren't the only reason to build architecturally interesting and sound buildings. They also contribute to your sense of place. I don't think Poway has a single building that you can put on a postcard.

I live in a small city in Colorado now. Our downtown looks like the one on the board game. We would be nothing without our old buildings.

Chris Cruse said...

I never understood the rationale behind building shoddy public buildings either. Unless it is to keep the builders busy.

Personally I am always stunned by how shoddy our public schools look. Poway just rehabbed all of the schools. The bonds won't be paid off for about 40-45 yrs, but I don't think the buildings and refurbished trailers will last that long, even though they look OK right now.

The Poway library is a fairly nice building, inside and out. You can view it on google maps using streetview and the 13193 Poway rd address. The city originally was going to locate the library in a shopping center. That plan was halted by a court case. Thank goodness, because now we have a decent looking public building. And once you have a really nice building, it kind of compels the city to continue to support the library.

The library courtyard is underutilized but that is because the city didn't cover it and it gets really hot in there. If they added a shade structure, it would make it a lot nicer.

PowayVoter said...

used to have a sense of permanence! Does Big Stone Lodge sound familiar? Oh, but it was old and yuckie ... so we tore it down! Golden State Garage was kinda permanent, but it too was old and yuckie, we tore it down too! Plow Boys, torn down! Old Village Post Office, torn down! Midland Animal Clinic, torn down!

So, when you have people in charge of a city that want to build and the city is built out, they have to tear things down so thay can continue to provide new yuckie stuff that will need to be torn down in a few years again.

nancysail said...

Old Poway deteriorated to a new "Old" that was just too much for us. The Old Poway was nice, but the NEW Old Poway is something out of this world! It is too bad the NEW Old Poway just cannot stop becoming more and more and more. What was the intent of Old Poway to begin with? I remember not too long ago we were so attracted to "Old Poway" because of the history that was presented there. I remember being told it was a place to resemble the "Old Poway", or the "Old West". The new Ball Park designed to resemble YANKEE STADIUM was just too much. In addition, the shiny, black sheet-metal reflecting sunlight into my windows, the loud speakers and the racing quad dragging chains on the fields at 20 mph creating huge dust clouds which deposited onto our homes was just a bit too much new added to the old. It is unfortunate the city spent many tens of thousands of dollars to re-build the OLD POWAY WATER TOWER to accommodate more new structures in Old Poway. Like they say ... out with the old, in with the new (old). By the way, my favorite parts of Old Poway are still the museum and the old Nelson House.