Long Beach: City Approves RFQ to Redesign ‘Functionally Obsolete’ Civic Center

"Civic Center, 1978. Photo courtesy of Wayne Thom."

Following an odd—albeit eventually retracted—closed meeting on February 4 discussing the Civic Center’s property, the City Council has moved forward in its quest to begin examining an entirely new civic center.

In the conclave, City Council was originally planning on whether to begin the process through a Request for Proposals to potentially construct an entirely new Civic Center in the area bounded by Broadway and Ocean, Pacific and Magnolia. Due to the fact that real estate could be involved, the city felt it necessary to make the meeting closed.

However, the following week, council approved 7-2 a Request for Qualifications that involves not just presenting new designs for the Civic Center, but also reexamine the seismic qualities of the original 1978 structures.

The Civic Center is essentially plagued by two major obstacles: its design and its lack of activity. The American Institute of Architects held two meetings last year–one historicalone revisionist–to discuss the issues of Don Gibb’s brutalist monument, including Gibbs himself. Gibbs was defiantly supportive of his work, ultimately waving a hand at the mention of a 2006 seismic study that called the entirety of his 15-story City Hall inefficient as well as the idea that his cold, austere design is unwelcoming.

That seismic study was, according to the City Manager’s office, the main reason they were bringing up the RFQ. Following Hurricane Katrina, municipal agencies examined their various structures to see if they met the FEMA 310 Tier 1 guidelines; Long Beach’s City Hall did not. In 2006, a Tier 2 study was conducted and determined that the core structure was sound but the concrete trusses were not.

To retrofit and upgrade the existing building would cost some $170 million, the City Manager’s office estimates—a far cry from Councilmember Dr. Suja Lowenthal’s previous $78 million estimate she provided at the initial AIA meeting. This, of course, follows design issues: more unusable square-footage than usable, large spaces that are inefficient sustainability-wise, its inability to house all employees and forcing the city to pay for off-site property leases…

“We can’t just let this meeting go unattended,” Assistant City Manager Suzanne Frick. “It’s basically functionally obsolete… This is a monolithic structure that is anti-pedestrian friendly in every way, shape, and form.”

While Gibbs can attempt to defend his design, facts speak for themselves: the space is absolutely desolate minus the handful of homeless men and women who gather at Lincoln Park. The library is continually faced with flood and leaking issues since Gibbs created a now-defunct rooftop garden on a flat space with no drainage system. Concrete pillars create vicious wind tunnels. Sunlight—metaphorically and often literally—rarely reaches the space.

The RFQ is an open invitation to local, national, and international development teams that entirely revise the center’s space.

“After reviewing RFQ responses and vetting questions and concerns related to the civic center, City Council will have an opportunity to request an RFP,” Lowenthal said. “However, before then I plan to co-host at least one community meeting with Vice Mayor Garcia and seek additional input from our local architects and engineers.”

That meeting has not been formally scheduled as of yet.

  • davistrain

    Regarding the LB City Hall being unwelcoming to pedestrians: Over the years I’ve noticed that many government buildings (and even an electric utility office I’m familiar with) have the ground floor quite a ways above grade level, requiring pedestrians to climb monumental stairways to reach the front door.  I finally figured out that this may be ascribed to military
    thinking: “Take the high ground!”  The idea may be that aggrieved citizens will be tired out by climbing those stairs and be less likely to cause trouble.  If building access is inconvenient, the bureaucrats and civil service workers can do their jobs without any annoying citizens interrupting their paperwork.  (Note: I live in the San Gabriel Valley, and don’t really “have a dog in this fight”.)

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Part I: Architects, Advocates, Ponder Future of Long Beach Civic Center

|
Monday night, Long Beach Heritage (LBH) and the Long Beach/South Bay chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) hosted a discussion posing one question: What are the possibilities for our Civic Center? That question–simple albeit absolutely essential–was mainly focused on the 1978 Civic Center that currently huddles between Ocean Blvd/Broadway Ave. and Magnolia Ave./Pacific […]

Express Lanes Hearings

|
Metro will hold a series of public hearings in March and April to gather public input on the Metro ExpressLanes program designed to alleviate congestion and provide new and better travel options on two of LA County’s busiest freeways. Metro, in partnership with Caltrans, embarked on a one-year demonstration program that converted 11 miles of […]

Streets Notes for the Upcoming Bike Plan Meetings

|
I’ll be going to the Westside Meeting.  If anyone wants to write about the other ones, let me know. Starting on Thursday, the City of Los Angeles will hold the first of five "official" public meetings on the Draft Bike Plan that was released for public viewing after some draft maps were released earlier this […]

Metro Moves Forward with Confused “Congestion Pricing”

|
Yesterday, the Metro, aka LACMTA, announced the details of it’s HOT Lanes FAST Lanes Express Lanes proposal to take existing carpool lanes on the I-10 and I-110 freeways into and out of Downtown Los Angeles.  While the new plan has been tweaked from the one outlined last August in one aspect, it is still missing […]

A Bike Path Over Troubled Water

|
As unlikely as it may seem, the City of Long Beach has taken significant steps this week to making the above rendering a reality – or at least having it redone by a much more expensive design team. Last week, the Long Beach City Council succeeded in convincing the port to commit to building a […]