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Mayor Foster Raises Concerns Over
Shifting Costs For A New Port Headquarters

By Samantha Mehlinger - Staff Writer

August 13, 2013 – Mayor Bob Foster addressed his concerns for what he claims are fluctuating estimates of a proposed new port headquarters during a special meeting August 5 of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners.

While the presentation by HKS Architects, whom the port hired to reassess the needs for the port headquarters, provided an estimate of $107,828,969 to construct a facility that would meet port needs, Foster pointed out that the estimate for a building with the same square footage was originally much higher.

“I want to give you an example of what I find to be right and wrong with some of the numbers that have been used,” Foster stated shortly after approaching the podium. “When I first looked at the harbor administration building, it was a $300 million line item in your budget, and $47 million of that was for the maintenance yard,” Foster said. This was in 2010.

The estimate put the cost for the building itself at about $253 million. Foster vetoed that plan. At the August 5 meeting, Foster reiterated that since then, cost estimates for headquarters proposals “kept moving around.”

“Next I heard, you wanted to purchase the World Trade Center, a 588,000-square-foot building,” he said, noting the port only needed about 250,000 square feet. The cost of this purchase would have been around $180 million based on figures Foster said were given to him at the time.

Foster found this to be too expensive as well, and said he then went through a list of other competitive proposals with the commissioners. He recalled that a proposal to build a facility by an entity he did not name had an estimated cost of “$103 million.” However, he said, an engineering consultant who later looked at the proposal determined the project would cost “well over $200 million,” according to Foster.

“I would like you to take a look at that. That is clearly out of the range you are looking at now,” Foster urged, noting that the cost proposed by HKS is now half that at $107 million, even though the square footage proposed is about the same.

Foster said during his commentary that when he spoke with commissioners on previous occasions about these fluctuating figures, they responded with “shock and amazement,” seemingly unaware of the shifting price tags.

“I want all of you to know, in a public forum, those were the numbers. It was not $100 million. It was not $200 million. It was in excess of $200 million,” Foster told the harbor commissioners. “You need to ask yourself where the numbers came from, because it looks inappropriate.”

Foster did say he believes the board is now “on the right path” to building an appropriate headquarters, but emphasized that he wanted to add transparency to what he called a “murky process.” Thomas Fields, president of the board of harbor commissioners, responded to Foster, saying, “I want to say I very much appreciate you coming down and having this frank discussion with us. I really appreciate you putting those numbers out there. It clears up some issues.”

Commissioner Dines thanked Foster for noting Downtown Long Beach as an appropriate location for the port headquarters.

“I especially appreciate your pointing out the need to look at the numbers very closely,” said Commissioner Susan Wise. She stated that when reviewing current estimates, the commissioners must take all previous estimates into account. She also pointed out the importance of breaking down estimates into various elements, such as the cost of a parking structure versus the headquarters building itself.