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Civic Center Issues

Cost: $350,000,000 Dollars
Why a New City Hall?

Total expenditures will be $363 Million

  1. $130 Million (current accts) +

  2. $150 Million (loan) +

  3. $83 Million (interest).

(Possibly lower or higher depending on interest rates and construction bids.)

$280 Million for:

  • new City Hall and...

  • Public Safety Building Add-on

  • tearing down existing structures

  • landscaping and restoration

That's if there are no cost overruns.  The City Hall would be most of the cost. 

Due to the effects of COVID-19, the city finance dept. projects sharp decreases in revenue for the next four years.  These are basically educated guesses.  It could be better, or worse.  I oppose going forward with this project until we have more clarity on the city's finances.  Numbers in the chart below are $Millions - from the projected 2019-2020 budget.

General Fund Chart.JPG

If the city is going to spend so much money on a building, I'd rather it be spent on a performing arts center or library expansion that everyone could enjoy.

Addition to Public Safety Building

Anew city hall not necessary to accommodate growth.  "Sunnyvale is growing and so city staff must grow to provide services." is how that argument goes.

Between 2000 and 2018, while Sunnyvale's population grew 17% (131,826 to 153,185) city staff numbers actually declined nearly 20% from 815 in 2003 to 685 in 2018.  (excludes public safety) See chart below:

Sunnyvale Staffing Levels.JPG

When I ask why build a new city hall I'm given several reasons.  One is that all the employees can be together in the same building.  At the moment they are scattered around in 4 buildings.  It is, at most, about a minute to go from one building to another.  I can't take that seriously but I need to mention it since the staff apparently think it is a valid reason.

Another reason given is the new building will be more energy efficient.  However, any building can be retrofitted to be much more energy efficient.  See the example below: the "Wayne Aspinall" federal courthouse in Grand Junction, CO.

Public Safety Add-on.JPG

Public Safety Building add-on: 13,000 sq. ft. addition for “Emergency Operations Center” and renovation of 8,700 sq. ft. of interior.

I’ve toured the public safety building. It is very cramped and definitely needs more room and interior renovation.  The 2017 cost estimate had the public safety addition and renovation at about 11% of the total which would be about $31 million in the latest upward revision .  Sunnyvale has the money for that “in the bank” and in general, I am fine with that aspect of the “Civic Center Modernization”.


However, we might consider delaying it a year or two until the economic situation clarifies.  We don't want to be cutting the  public safety budget while we're adding to their building.

Demolition of Existing City Hall

Sunnyvale's City Hall to be demolished.  There is still time to preserve this solid building!  Email Sunnyvale City Council at:

Vote for Mike Goldman in November to preserve it.

The existing City Hall of 53,500 sq. ft. is “built for the ages” to quote one of the original builders.  If 120,000 sq. ft. of office space is needed, a simple addition to the current city hall of 66,500 sq. ft. would get that at roughly half of whatever the cost of 120,000 sq.ft. building would be.

But is 120,000 sq. ft. really needed?  Many companies are adopting “work from home” – shouldn’t the city?  Let's not spend all that money only to have it turn out to be a lot of (expensive) empty space.

Even if a new city hall is built, the old one would make a great teen center, gallery for local artists, or meeting rooms for soccer clubs, Girl Scouts, etc.

Let's preserve the good things we have, including open space and good, solid civic amenities.

Some trees will be moved, I have asked which ones will be cut down but have not yet received an answer.

Wayne Aspinall US Courthouse: constructed 1918, size increased 50% in 1939.  Retrofitted to "Net-Zero" energy in 2013.

The above Aspinall Courthouse generates more energy than it consumes over the course of a year.  Total cost = $15 million for the retrofit.  Quite a feat given the hot Summers and cold Winters of Colorado.

It is LEED Platinum - highest possible energy efficiency rating.

It was expanded by 50% in 1939.  Current floor area is 41,562 square feet, about 20% less than our current city hall.

It has received many, many awards including citation by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) as one of their top-ten energy efficient buildings of 2014.  See more here:

and for a list of many of the awards look here:

New City Hall
City Hall 3.JPG

Is proposed city hall (drawings always look nice) worth the price!?  It has a gym and showers for employees.

The proposed City Hall would be 120,000 sq. ft., with gym, showers, & underground parking.  This is a very expensive building.  The average construction cost in Silicon Valley for office space is $417/sq. ft. (link) with an additional 30% for "soft costs" like landscaping, etc. = $542/sq. ft.  For 120,000 sq. ft., that should cost only $65M - roughly half the cost of the current plans.

For comparison, 2 nearby commercial buildings of 144,000 sq. ft. (10% bigger) sold for $95.2M just a few months ago (link) and that included the cost of land.  Sunnyvale already owns the land so that isn't part of the cost.

At the very least, we should hold off on any more expenditures on this project for a few years until we have some clarity on the economy and how it will affect the city.  We don't want to be building a monstrous City Hall at the same time we're laying off the staff who were supposed to occupy it.

Demolition of Sunnyvale Office Center
Sunnyvale Office Center.JPG

The “Sunnyvale Office Center” houses city staff overflow from the existing city hall.  I usually advocate “repair and preserve” but not in this case.  It looks nice but the wood frame is rotting, and the heating system is antiquated and not worth repairing.

Still, it could last for a few years more.  I think that would be best until we get some idea how the economic crisis turns out.

It was a privately owned office building bought years ago with the idea that tenants would help pay off the loan.  About $3 million debt remains on it.

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