Compare San Diego Civic Center Complex Proposals


Update: The financials have been released (see a review from Metropolitan Magazine) and Hines has pulled out from the bidding. So, now the city will decide whether to pursue the Gerding proposal noted below, do nothing, or come up with a third option such as relocating city personnel to buildings in suburban areas with cheaper rents.


San Diego City Hall is ready for a makeover. The dated buildings in our Civic Center Complex are starting to stick out like a sore thumb as the rest of the San Diego has gone through a development makeover during the last decade. If you think a City Hall renovation is the last thing San Diego can afford, think again.

City government has outgrown its facilities, which were built in the 1960s. San Diego taxpayers now spend $13.5 million a year to lease office space in other downtown buildings for city employees. Many of these leases must be renewed in 2013 and 2014 and the new terms are expected to bury our financially strapped city.

To avoid the upcoming budget burden, city leadership has tasked the Center City Development Corporation (CCDC) to solicit and review redevelopment proposals for the city owned Civic Center Complex. The goal is to redevelop four city blocks, including City Hall and the City Operations Building, so they can house all city employees and no longer need to pay for long-term leases in privately held office buildings. One of the requirements for the proposals is the cost of redevelopment must be covered by the savings from not having to pay for the leases. No extra taxpayer money can be used and ideally, there should be a net gain for taxpayers

There are now two finalists who have submitted their detailed proposals to the CCDC. The public is encouraged to review and comment on the proposals. This is our opportunity to not only participate in helping local San Diego government make wise decisions but to also help further reshape downtown San Diego so it continues to be one of the best places in the world to live and to visit.

I have taken the liberty to review the proposals (one is 202 pages long and the other is 254 pages long) and will help provide a ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version below so you too will get involved and voice your opinions.

Comparison of San Diego City Hall Proposals

To say the competing proposals to redevelop four blocks of our Civic Center Complex are very different would still be an understatement.

The competing proposals come from development companies Gerding Edlen and Hines. They both propose a four story city hall structure and they both build space to house all of the necessary city employees. That might sound boring to most readers who may be asking themselves now why they should get involved. Well hold your horses and give me two minutes to tell you why.

Both proposals want to make a statement with the new City Hall. (Photo renderings of the proposed looks are referenced below in the comparison chart.) Both want to create an inviting community gathering area that could rival more popular downtown destinations.

Now I’ll note the dramatic difference. The Hines proposal takes a conservative approach, accomplishing the City’s objectives, and leaves some room for future expansion. The Gerding proposal on the other hand seeks to redefine the core of downtown San Diego.

For starters, the Gerding proposal seeks to build one of the tallest buildings in San Diego (456 feet) in the shape of sail. (For those who don’t know, buildings downtown are capped at 500 feet because of their proximity to the San Diego Airport.) In addition, they propose developing 30-story, 24-story, and 23-story buildings to house apartments, condos or a hotel, offices, a major grocery store, fitness center, and retail shops. They would also give a major facelift to Civic Theatre while adding new space. If you wonder where everyone will park, the proposal includes three underground parking garages, all connected to one another, with a total of 4,120 parking spaces.

With that said, here is a chart that compares the current use for each city block to each of the proposals. I reference the streets so you know the block locations. However, if you would like a better visual of the current uses, take a look at page 28 in the City’s Request for Qualifications document, which includes an aerial photo of the blocks in question.

I apologize to those who can not read images. If you can’t read the chart above, use the contact link in the right column and I’ll send the chart to you in a different format.

Here are links to the proposal documents from the CCDC’s web site:

Gerding Edlen Proposal

Hines Proposal

This is where we need to come in and let our city leaders know our vision for the new San Diego Civic Center Complex. They will be hosting public meetings throughout the city from August 14 – 26. All of the weekday meetings take place from 6:30 – 8:30PM. All of the Saturday meetings take place from 10AM-12PM. Meetings will start with a brief introduction from the CCDC and then presentations will be given by each developer. The public may then engage in a question and answer session. If you can not attend the meetings, you can contact Gerding at sandiegociviccenter ‘at’ (I used ‘at’ instead of @ so they won’t be spammed by computer robots.) Hines did not provide an email address for comments. They did note a web site for information but as of this post it is a dead link.

  • Thursday, August 14 – Kearny Mesa Library
  • Saturday, August 16 – Scripps Miramar Library
  • Monday, August 18 – Allied Gardens Library
  • Tuesday, August 19 – Pacific Beach Library
  • Wednesday, August 20 – Golden Hall (the first building to be demolished in both proposals)
  • Thursday, August 21 – Nobel Recreation Center
  • Saturday, August 23 – Otay Mesa Library
  • Monday, August 25 – City Heights Library
  • Tuesday, August 26 – Tubman Chaves Center

To confirm the dates and times, visit the CCDC Events Calendar. If you need directions to the libraries, here are is a list of San Diego Library Locations.

Both developers assume there will be a selection of a winner before the end of the year. Based on that assumption the Hines proposal expects City Hall to be completed by the end of 2012 and the City Office Building to be completed by the middle of 2014. Gerding expects City Hall and the City Office Building to be completed by the middle of 2013 with the remaining development to be completed in phases ending in 2015 – 2018.

Here are two final resources:

Gerding Edlen – Page for news releases that includes articles regarding San Diego City Hall Complex Proposal.

Hines – News release regarding San Diego City Hall Complex Proposal from the Hines web site.

What Do You Think?

You can also vote for your favorite San Diego Civic Center Complex Proposal at the Union Tribune web site.

I’d be curious to know your thoughts. Feel free to share them below. I’ll get it started with my own observations, which will give you more insight into the redevelopment proposals.

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2 Responses to “Compare San Diego Civic Center Complex Proposals”

  1. The Best Places in San Diego says:

    Here are my observations:
    * I like that both proposals place the city council chambers near street level in a building separate from offices. It feels much more accessible than riding an elevator past several floors of offices to the top of the current city hall.
    * I like that both proposals include a 2nd floor viewing deck overlooking council chambers. It could definitely use some more space for the public to attend meetings, especially those that involve controversial topics.
    * I like Gerding’s proposal to include a community resource center on the ground floor, below council chambers. Again, it makes government accessible to the public to conduct business with the city, such as obtaining permits and licenses.
    * I like Gerding’s proposal to provide a public observation deck near the top of the new city office building, which will be facing south and west towards San Diego Bay. This could become a nice attraction for tourists to get a view of our city without having to feel obliged to buy a drink, such as in Hyatt’s Sky Bar, when capturing a bird’s eye view of the city.
    * I like Gerding’s proposal to build several extra floors in the new city office building that can be used for future expansion. That space could be leased out until the city needs it or it could be used as space for community organizations. The Hines proposal notes future expansion in their plans would require private space to be leased. I thought this is what we are trying to avoid with this redevelopment project.
    * I like the concept of Gerding’s proposal to put parking underground. However, I am concerned whether it is safe to have public parking beneath our City Hall and City Office Building.
    * I am concerned with Hines’ proposal to have the back of City Hall facing the trolley line on C Street. I think we need to liven up the trolley corridor. Gerding’s proposal has the side of the building facing C Street and the front of the building facing 2nd Avenue. Gerding also proposes upgrading and expanding the Civic Theatre, which is on the opposite side of 2nd Avenue. I think these changes will liven up the 2nd Avenue corridor since the Westgate Hotel on the next block south of C Street also fronts on 2nd Avenue. By livening up the 2nd Avenue corridor , I would expect to see it spillover onto C Street where 2nd Avenue crosses over C Street, which is also where all of the new workers and residents in the Gerding proposal can access the Trolley.
    * I don’t like the side elevations in Gerding’s photo renderings for the Council Chambers. The look of brown paneling seems out of place to me. I think more of a sandy colored stone would work better.
    *The financials will be a key review component. They are to be released shortly and will go a long way to help assess whether Gerding’s pie-in-the-sky proposal is realistic. However, I do think the timing for development of condos and rental units in the downtown market will work. Although the housing market is down now, the proposed units will be coming online seven to nine years from now when the echo boomers will be entering their late 20′s looking for homes and many baby boomers will be retiring in droves and looking to live in places where they can keep themselves entertained. I like the fact they will have front door access to the trolley system, Horton Plaza, and the Gaslamp.

  2. [...] to politics. Tim Schenck presents Compare San Diego Civic Center Complex Proposals posted at The Best Places In San Diego!, saying, “Get involved this month with the [...]

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