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Commentary: Let's correct civic center misconceptions

January 08, 2013|By Edward Selich

Re. "Mailbag: CalPERS, council should split Taj Mahal costs,": Daily Pilot reader M. D. Moore is the latest to use the city and the Newport Beach Civic Center as a punching bag, but his Jan. 3 letter was misleading. As such, I feel compelled to address several comments made in the letter.

It was the City Council, not the city staff, that unanimously approved the design and construction of the new Civic Center. Before that approval, there were more than 45 public meetings from the start to the end of that planning process. While I understand that most residents are busy and couldn't participate in those meetings, many residents did, and they helped steer the council's decision. (I actually went from opposing to embracing the project after hours upon hours of study and public testimony.) And the council's decision, made in a public meeting in 2009, was to take advantage of the low-bid environment and build a true civic center, not just a city hall. This was our one chance to build a central gathering place for our community at great pricing — we took it.

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Moore keeps comparing apples to oranges. The cost of the Civic Center project today is for the entire project – the 12-plus acres of park, the new emergency preparedness center, the library expansion, the pedestrian bridge, the city hall and council chambers, the parking structure, the storm water protection devices, grading, design, insurance, contingency, construction management, the environmental documents, inspections and more. If we were building just the city hall building, the construction cost would be close to what the Measure B proponents estimated back in 2008. But that was an estimate for one building, not a civic center.

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