Cupertino Takes Step Toward New Civic Center

Cupertino Civic Center

By Neil Gonzales

Cupertino has taken a key step toward building a new civic center that would withstand a major earthquake, be energy efficient and provide additional community space.

“We have a master plan right now,” the city’s Mayor Rod Sinks said. “This summer, we have the opportunity to look at it further and how to go forward.”

[contextly_sidebar id=”g8ameVPVwLBNVdp5UV6M0nOKqgOeGau5″]The city has been eyeing an updated civic center over recent years and in May completed an initial study master plan that concluded the project would not have significant consequences on the environment if some mitigation measures are done.

A 20-day comment period on the study recently ended, and City Council on July 7 expects to review and possibly approve the project or parts of it.

“The [City Hall] building has deficiencies that no doubt have to be addressed in the future,” said Katy Jensen, the city’s capital improvement program manager. The planning “has been a methodical process and involved a lot of outreach to the community. Now we’re at the stage where the council can make a decision” to advance the project or take up other elements at a later time.

The plan for the 10-acre civic center at Torre and Rodrigues avenues calls for replacing the existing 24,260-square-foot City Hall with a new two-story, 40,000-square-foot building atop a below-grade parking garage for up to 118 vehicles. The plan also would expand the 54,300-square-foot library by about 2,000 square feet to accommodate additional seating for events.

The civic center project, which mayor Sinks said is expected to cost more than $40 million, could break ground next year and finish in about 16 months, according to the plan.

City Hall is overdue for a remake as it is about 50 years old and susceptible to a large temblor, Sinks said. “Likely in a severe earthquake, our City Hall would not be habitable.”

A City Hall that can survive a natural disaster is critical for coordinating relief efforts, continuing public services and helping residents rebuild, he said. “If a municipal government is not able to function when a disaster strikes, we would be in a world of pain.”

Although the existing City Hall has room for an emergency operations center, the plan said, that space does not meet certain structural criteria. Therefore, space that does meet requirements for the center is included in a redesigned building.

A new City Hall would allow for 11 percent future growth—or about 100 employees, the plan also said.

Another reason for a new civic center is to achieve energy efficiency, Sinks said.

The project would conform to the California Green Building Standards Code and pursue certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, the plan said. The project’s sustainable elements would include a building exterior that maximizes or minimizes heat gain depending on the weather, systems that reduce water and energy consumption, and electric-vehicle charging stations.

The project would also increase space for community meetings and events by about 60 percent, Sinks said.

The expanded library calls for a program room that would accommodate up to 130 people, the plan said.

Moreover, the project would boost parking availability—which is much needed because “we have a very successful library program,” Jensen said.

In the meantime, she said, the city has enacted ongoing interim measures to ease the parking crunch. Those include patron parking for limited hours in the lot and timed reserved parking on adjacent streets for city workers. However, city leaders said, physical improvements are needed to resolve the parking troubles long term.

Funding for the civic center project could come from city reserves and a bond, Sinks said.

Part of the financing also could come from a proposed program in which developers seeking to build in Cupertino are chosen based on their offer of enhanced community benefits and other factors, he said.

Newport Beach-based real estate investor and developer Irvine Co. has already offered a $7 million contribution toward the community space in the new civic center as part of its proposal to renovate The Hamptons apartment community at 19500 Pruneridge Ave.

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