By Roz Rogoff
Practical not pretentiousUploaded: Mar 17, 2014
I didn't attend the last City Council meeting when the latest plans for the City Hall were unveiled and discussed. I read the article in the Express with a drawing of the building. I was not impressed, and said so in a comment on the article.
Councilman Harry Sachs emailed a reply to my comment.
"The proposed city hall building is two stories I think you referred to it as one in the Express. The rotunda has about 3700 square feet and could be used for public or private events. In my conversations with the architects and designers, I stressed making it usable and accessible for the public."
Critics, including myself initially, said it looked too much like another Bishop Ranch office building. Well guess what! That's what it is supposed to be. Harry went on to explain the purpose of the building in his email.
"However, primarily, this is a building designed for city staff to work. Also, Sunset has really reduced their scope in terms of buldout of city center. This is a component of that. This is a cost saving move for the city and Sunset. I sent Chris Truebridge and Bill Clarkson en email suggested using the city's circular logo with the colors in the front of the building using a tile inlay. That would break up the all-white look with colors."
There's no reason why the building has to be all-white. I'd like a nice rose-granite façade, but that might be too expensive. Regardless of the building's eventual color, all new buildings in San Ramon, whether commercial, business, or even City owned, are required to have public art.
When I was on the Arts Advisory Committee we recommended improvements and approved art projects proposed for new or remodeled buildings. The ABC Pet Clinic on San Ramon Valley Blvd. added tile silhouettes of a dog and cat to the front of the building which was remodeled from the old Jeff's Kitchen building. A colored tile inlay of the City's crow logo on the front entrance should qualify for the public art requirement.
Since I missed the meeting where this was discussed, I watched the video of it to see what really was discussed. I was impressed with the presentation on the new building and it's layout with offices and meeting rooms.
Jim Gibbon and Jim Blickenstaff spoke at the meeting. Gibbon asked for more public input into the design of the building. "Give people the opportunity to talk about their City Hall," Gibbon said in his closing remarks.
Mayor Clarkson replied "The opportunity is right now." Wow, yes, where were all those "people" with more input to the design of THEIR City Hall? Where were the hordes of residents who want an impressive City Hall? There they were, Jim and Jim.
Blickenstaff was so unhappy with the Council's acceptance of the plans, that he emailed his objections to the media. Here is an excerpt from his conclusion.
"Not surprisingly, the resulting Council decision suffered from lack of imagination; lack of connection to Cities' residents; and lack of compatible integration with the surrounding community/sports facilities. Less a tribute to the City and citizens of San Ramon; and more like an annex to the business oriented/efficient/spartan/ white cement/green glass motif of a business park."
So yes, the new building is an "office building." It is practical not pompous. It isn't a "CITY HALL" it is a City office building where residents can gather in meeting rooms, hold events in the Rotunda, sit comfortably at Council Meetings, or pick up a passport when they need one.
San Ramon residents don't give a hoot for how impressive our City Hall is. Has anyone looked at the current City Hall buildings lately? These little cracker boxes are not only cramped and plain; they have not kept up with the growth of the city and need for better office space for Staff. That's why they need to be replaced. It's not to impress a majority of indifferent residents or the rest of the Tri-Valley.
By the way the City owns those "City Hall" buildings, and even though they are not very attractive, I suppose some enterprising business, or even Sunset Development, might buy the properties for a nice extra ca-ching in this deal. Maybe some of that extra money could be used for a nicer façade for the new City Hall.