Legislative Public Meetings

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File #: 17-0835   
Type: Report to Council Status: Passed
Meeting Body: City Council
On agenda: 11/7/2017
Title: Selection of a Preferred Alternative for the Civic Center Master Plan, Approval of Budget Modification 23 in the Amount of $30,000, and Find that these Actions are Exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act
Attachments: 1. Master Plan Alternatives Description and Graphics, 2. Community Outreach Comments, 3. Open City Hall Survey Summary, 4. Preliminary Traffic Impact Analysis, 5. Phase 1 Cost Estimate, 6. Preliminary Financing Plan, 7. Staff Presentation 20171107 (17-0835), 8. Supplemental Materials: Civic Center Trees (posted 20171109)
Related files: 17-0874, 17-0927, 17-0094

REPORT TO COUNCIL

SUBJECT

Title

Selection of a Preferred Alternative for the Civic Center Master Plan, Approval of Budget Modification 23 in the Amount of $30,000, and Find that these Actions are Exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act

 

Report

REPORT IN BRIEF

The City retained SmithGroup JJR to prepare a Master Plan for the Civic Center in May 2017 (RTC No. 17-0136). The Master Plan process has been broken into three parts - Building Assessments, Alternative Development, and Preferred Alternative Development. Building assessments were completed to evaluate whether the City Hall Annex Building should be renovated or replaced, and to develop options for a Public Safety Building addition. Council considered the assessments in July 2017 and gave direction to replace the City Hall Annex Building by including space for NOVA Workforce Services as part of the new City Hall. Council also supported an 11,000 square foot addition to the Public Safety Building as part of Phase 1 of the Civic Center project (RTC No. 17-0617).

 

Two Master Plan alternatives (See Attachment 1) have been developed to provide options for building placement, site circulation, parking facilities and open space features. Council direction is needed to select a preferred Master Plan alternative, which will become the proposed project for purposes of CEQA analysis. Significant community outreach has been built into the Master Plan process. Since starting in May, the City has held focus group meetings, presented the project to seven City boards and Commissions, held a community workshop, and conducted an Open City Hall survey. Results of the outreach process are included in Attachment 2 and 3. A traffic analysis and cost estimates have been prepared for both alternatives and are available as Attachments 4 and 5.

 

Once a preferred alternative has been selected, work will continue on the Master Plan. A Program Environmental Impact Report will be prepared for the project. It will need to be completed and certified before Council can consider adoption of a final Master Plan, which is scheduled for September 2018. A floor plan will be created for City Hall to finalize the size of the building. This information will be used to develop a cost allocation plan to allocate Phase 1 costs to various funding sources including the General Fund Capital Reserve, enterprise funds, and Park Dedication Fees. The cost allocation plan will form the basis of an updated financing plan for Council’s review and approval with the final Master Plan. Staff is recommending a budget modification in the amount of $30,000 to fund the preparation of a cost allocation study, as well as funding the development of a detailed financing strategy.

 

Master Plan alternatives were developed to give the Council a range of options to choose from as it considers the placement of buildings, parking facilities, and open space amenities. Staff believes that both alternatives meet City objectives for the project as defined by the Vision Statement, Success Criteria, and Needs Assessment adopted by Council in 2015 (RTC No. 15-0114). Since the two alternatives have similar costs, traffic impacts, open space quantities and a significant majority of the community didn’t express a preference for either alternative, staff makes no recommendation as to which alternative best meets the City’s needs.

 

BACKGROUND

On October 25, 2016, City Council approved a scope of services for the Civic Center Modernization Project Master Plan (RTC No. 16-0072). The scope outlines specific consulting services needed to complete a long-term Master Plan for the Civic Center and further defined what elements of the project would be implemented as part of the first phase of construction. The scope of work also documented decisions that have already been made by the Council and specific studies that were needed to support decision making during the master planning process.

 

A multi-step public procurement process was used to solicit interest and select a consultant to complete the Civic Center Master Plan. On May 17, 2017, Council awarded a contract to SmithGroup JJR for master planning services (RTC No. 17-0136). SmithGroup JJR is an architecture firm with extensive experience preparing campus master plans and designing modern, sustainable and attractive buildings. The City’s agreement with SmithGroup JJR includes a detailed scope of services, and project schedule that identifies Council decision points and community outreach activities throughout the master planning process.

 

On July 25, 2017 Council reviewed options for expanding the existing Public Safety Building and considered whether the City Hall Annex Building could be renovated and used for NOVA Workforce Services (RTC No. 17-0617). After considering the options, Council gave direction to pursue an addition to the existing Public Safety Building of approximately 11,000 square feet as part of Phase 1 of the Civic Center Project. Also, that the City Hall Annex Building be replaced and space for NOVA Workforce services be included in City Hall. 

 

EXISTING POLICY

General Plan Chapter 4, Community Character

Community Character includes the following policies applicable to the Civic Center Modernization Project:

CC-3.1d Consider developing Zoning Code standards for minimum depths of below grade parking and avoid at grade parking under building.

CC-4.1b Consider ways to increase the visibility of the Civic Center on Mathilda Avenue and El Camino Real and consider better identification for the Community Center along Remington.

The Council Fiscal Policy contains several policies related to infrastructure in Chapter 7:Planning and Management

Policy section 7.1C, Capital Improvement Policies:

C.1.3 High priority should be given to replacing capital improvements prior to the time that they have deteriorated to the point where they are hazardous, incur high maintenance costs, negatively affect property values, or no longer serve their intended purposes.

C.1.5 Priority will be given to the repair and replacement of existing infrastructure as compared to the provision of new or expanded facilities.

C.1 The decision on whether to repair or to replace an existing capital asset will be based on which alternative is most cost-effective or provides the best value to the City.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

Pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an agency must complete environmental review prior to committing itself to a definite course of action in regard to a proposed project. (CEQA Guidelines Section 15352). Environmental review must occur as early as feasible in the planning process to enable environmental considerations to influence project program and design, yet late enough to provide meaningful information for environmental assessment. (CEQA Guidelines Section 15004(b).)

 

At this time, the City Council is not taking any action that would constitute approval of the Civic Center project. Rather, the City Council is being asked to provide direction to staff with regard to the proposed Master Plan that will be evaluated in a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR). The scope of services for the Master Plan includes preparation of the PEIR, which will be prepared and circulated for public comment during the master planning process and certified prior to Council action to consider adoption of the final Master Plan. The City Council retains full discretion either to approve or disapprove the project. The selection of the preferred option for further study is therefore exempt from environmental review pursuant to CEQA Guidelines, Section 15262 (feasibility and planning studies for possible future actions that have not been approved, adopted, or funded), as well as the general rule that CEQA only applies to “projects” that have the potential for causing a significant effect on the environment. Where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity in question may have a significant effect on the environment, the activity is not subject to CEQA. (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15061(b)(3)).

 

A Notice of Preparation was published for the Civic Center Modernization Project providing public notice of the City’s intent to prepare a PEIR for the project. A public comment period was opened from September 26 to October 26, 2017 on the scope of the PEIR. A public scoping meeting was held on October 18, 2017, to gather public input on any environmental concerns that should be evaluated further as part of the PEIR. Six members of the public attended.

 

DISCUSSION

The Master Plan scope of services specifically called for two different Master Plan alternatives to be prepared for the Civic Center and that two architectural concepts be developed for a new City Hall. Part of the master planning process includes preparation of a Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR). To complete the detailed environmental analysis required for the PEIR, there must be a well-defined proposed project. The Master Plan alternative selected by Council will become the proposed project for the purposes of CEQA analysis.

 

Selecting a preferred alternative is not a final approval from City Council for that alternative. The alternative selected will be the subject of further environmental analysis and refinement through master plan process. Once the PEIR has been certified, Council will be asked to adopt a final Master Plan for the Civic Center. This is currently scheduled in September 2018.

 

Master Plan Alternatives

A description of the two Master Plan alternatives is provided in Attachment 1 along with graphic images that show the overall site layout, circulation plan, parking facilities and architectural concepts. A graphic showing the extent of work in Phase 1 of the Master Plan is also provided for both options. The most pronounced difference between the options is whether Olive Avenue remains a through street between Charles Street and Pastoria Avenue. In Option 1 - Plaza, Olive Avenue remains open but is modified to remove parking, add bike lanes, and drop off areas. In Option 2 - Path, Olive Avenue is closed to car traffic between Charles Street and Pastoria Avenue and used as the location for the new City Hall and Public Library buildings.

 

Community Outreach

Since starting the Master Plan in May 2017, numerous outreach efforts were made to gather community input as follows:

                     June 14 - Three focus groups meeting held with approximately 15 residents each

                     June 19 - Presentation to Sustainability Commission

                     July 29 - State of the City Event with Civic Center booth providing an opportunity to select preferences for the style of site features

                     September 13 - Presentation to Parks and Recreation Commission

                     September 20 - Presentation to Arts Commission

                     October 2 - Presentation to Board of Library Trustees

                     October 12- Community Workshop on Master Plan Alternatives

                     October 19 - Presentation to Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission

                     October 23 - Presentation to Planning Commission

                     November 1 - Presentation to Heritage Preservation Commission

 

Notes taken at each meeting are provided in Attachment 2.

 

An Open City Hall Survey was launched on October 13, and closed on October 31, 2017. 278 people participated in the survey with 91% indicating they were Sunnyvale residents. A summary of the survey is provided as Attachment 3. The survey didn’t ask participants directly whether they preferred Option 1 or 2, but did ask about specific site features including whether keeping Olive Avenue open or closing it was liked or not liked. Survey results were fairly split on this question. For Option 1 - Plaza, 121 respondents indicated they liked keeping Olive Avenue open, compared to 103 who said they didn’t like it. For Option 2 - Path, 129 said they liked closing Olive Avenue compared to 99 who said they didn’t like it.

 

Traffic Impact Analysis

A preliminary traffic impact analysis (Attachment 4) was prepared for both Master Plan alternatives. VTA guidelines were followed to complete a level of service analysis for 27 intersections near the Civic Center. The analysis looked at three scenarios: existing conditions, existing plus background, and cumulative. Baseline conditions were established for each scenario and then peak hour project trips were added and compared to the baseline condition. The City’s adopted standards were used to determine if added traffic would result in impacts to the intersections studied.

 

A trip generation summary was prepared that showed the proposed Civic Center project would generate 120 net new trips in the AM peak hour and 255 net trips in the PM peak hour. The study identified a potentially significant impact at one location - Olive Avenue and Mary Avenue. This location was impacted in each scenario analyzed: existing conditions plus project, existing plus background plus project, and cumulative plus project. Both Master Plan alternatives had the same impacts. A summary is provided below:

 

 

Traffic at Olive Avenue and Mary Avenue already experiences congestion during peak hours. The through and left-turn movements from Olive Avenue on to Mary Avenue are difficult because of high volumes and queuing traffic on Mary Avenue at El Camino Real. Added trips from the Civic Center would increase delay at this intersection resulting in a significant impact unless mitigated. The impacts could be mitigated by restricting the through and left turn movement from Olive Avenue to Mary Avenue in each direction during peak hours. This would result in some out of direction travel for residents living near Olive and Mary when they need to access El Camino from westbound Olive, or head north on Mary from eastbound Olive.

 

The traffic analysis also evaluated queuing on southbound Mathilda Avenue at El Camino Real and westbound El Camino Real at Pastoria Avenue. During peak hours, traffic will back up at these locations creating difficulty in exiting certain driveways from the Civic Center. This is a concern for access to Mathilda from the Public Safety Building in Master Plan Option 2. Staff believes this could be mitigated by installing a remotely activated emergency signal at Mathilda Avenue and All American Way.

 

Comparison of Master Plan Alternatives

Master Plan alternatives were both developed to meet the Vision and Success criteria adopted for the Civic Center Project and therefore, have many features in common. Both alternatives:

                     Have the same size buildings to meet current and future service delivery needs

                     Keep the entire Civic Center campus as City-owned land

                     Significantly increase open space and the usability of open space

                     Allow the City Hall building to achieve a LEED Platinum rating

                     Retain the Charles Street Gardens in its current location

                     Consolidate all administrative functions and services into a new City Hall, replacing the four existing buildings

                     Include a building addition to the existing Public Safety Headquarters Building to meet high-priority space needs

                     Allow City services to continue during construction from the existing buildings they are currently located in

                     Have adequate parking

 

This section highlights differences between the Mater Plan alternatives:

 

Cost. Cost estimates were prepared for Phase 1 improvements illustrated in Attachment 1. Estimated costs are in 2017 dollars, and include design, construction, and project administration costs. A 20% design contingency is included to address the lack of design details at this stage of planning. Not included in the estimates are construction change order contingencies (typically 10%), furnishings, electronic equipment, additional costs to achieve net zero energy usage, and financing costs.

 

 

Open Space and Parking. Open space quantities are similar in both alternatives and significantly higher than the existing Civic Center Site. Approximately 44% of the existing Civic Center site is open space, compared to 66% with Master Plan Option 1 - Plaza, and 70% with Option 2 - Path. Closing Olive Avenue in Option 2 results in approximately one additional acre of open space. Parking quantities are the same in both alternatives.

 

 

Parking Quantity