Council members could have chosen a slightly cheaper approach. Building and Safety Director Ross Cranmer said the bare-bones $7.7 million proposal would get the job done, but it wouldn’t make for a very good looking City Hall.
“Frankly, it looks like a project half-done,” Cranmer said.
Filling the $1.2 million gap will be unused money for downtown street improvements and leftover funds from agreements made when the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach was built.
Council members quickly decided that a tall concrete wall flanked by narrow stairs wasn’t ideal. As staff told them, visitors would have to take a detour to get down from the parking lot to council chambers. Instead, they voted to have the transition obscured by a stair-step plaza.
Councilwoman Jill Hardy said a tall wall, even with railing, could be dangerous for teenage pranks and might trap debris too.
“It looks like it might be a dirt trap,” Councilwoman Jill Hardy said of the wall in the cheapest plan. “We don’t know how the wind might blow through there and trap dirt.”
Former City Administrator Penny Culbreth-Graft said last year that council members had a special interest in the retrofit because their own offices, and hers, would “pancake” in a big enough quake.
But officials also latched onto the issue of appearance, calling it important to keep the seat of government from being unsightly.
“If you scrimp on it now, will you be sorry in 10 years?” asked Councilwoman Cathy Green.