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Ocean Park Boulevard on Monday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

<i>Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series that tracks the city’s expenditures appearing on upcoming Santa Monica City Council consent agendas. Consent agenda items are routinely passed by the City Council with little or no discussion from elected officials or the public. However, many of the items have been part of public discussion in the past.</i>

CITY HALL — The site of a Habitat for Humanity project could fall in local government hands after organizers pulled the plug on a proposed affordable housing development.

The nonprofit organization, which utilizes volunteer help to build homes for low-income families to own, is expected to transfer the property at 2018 19th St. to City Hall in exchange for the cancellation of an approximately $575,000 loan that Habitat for Humanity received in 2002 to acquire the land.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to authorize its staff to enter negotiations with Habitat for Humanity and cancel all contracts, loan agreements and financial obligations between the two entities. Acquiring the land is expected to cost City Hall roughly $19,000 in one-time escrow fees and property fencing costs.

The matter is part of the consent portion of the council meeting agenda, which includes approximately $1.8 million in spending. The council will temporarily convene as the Redevelopment Agency when it takes action on the conveyance agreement.

Habitat for Humanity approached city officials last year regarding problems it was experiencing in moving the project forward, including financial challenges caused by a drop in fundraising capacity and reallocation of resources to other projects in the area.

The current loan agreement states that Habitat will default if the project is unable to proceed in a timely manner, which would lead to a foreclosure process. Such a situation would not necessarily guarantee that City Hall would gain ownership of the property.

Officials decided to instead enter a conveyance agreement that would allow it to acquire the land, recognizing that Habitat for Humanity had acted in good faith to develop the property and noting that the land most likely increased in value since 2002. City Hall is considering including the property into a cluster of affordable housing developments, looking at other potential sites in the area.

The transitioning of fire dispatch

The Santa Monica Fire Department, which is in the process of reopening its communications center, is set to receive new equipment to improve dispatch services the second time around.

The council is expected to approve two contracts related to the activation of the fire dispatch center, including a $227,759 purchase agreement with Motorola for new radio equipment and a $190,000 order from Westnet for a fire station alerting system.

Officials decided earlier this year to end a more than year-long partnership with the Los Angeles Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center after a study concluded that using an in-house communications center would best serve the needs of residents.

“The purchase of the radio infrastructure equipment is necessary in order to support communications within the fire department, and for interoperable communications with the police department as well as other local public safety agencies,” a staff report said.

Approximately $63,750 in no-match federal funds is also slated to come to City Hall for local homeland security efforts.

The money will be used to buy hazardous material inter-operability equipment.

The council was expected to authorize the city manager last month to accept the grant but did not because there were less than five members present for the vote.

Parking in downtown

City Hall is expected to hire Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based firm that has worked on various local transportation and planning related projects in the past, to conduct a parking study of the Downtown and Civic Center areas.

The consultant will be responsible for not only studying parking and circulation in the area, but see how that would be impacted by the Exposition Light Rail, which will terminate at the corner of Colorado Avenue and Fourth Street.

The contract is estimated at $130,876.

Creating a plan for the trees

About a month after the council decided to form a new task force that would advise on the formation of an urban forest master plan, an architecture firm will be hired to help develop the document.

Artecho Landscape Architecture is expected to receive a $203,791 contract to create the master plan, which will include an updated tree inventory, maintenance requirements, and an assessment of environmental benefits of having an urban forest. The plan will also account for the life expectancy of each tree.

The consultant will conduct four public workshops from which it will identify specific species that will replace trees once they are removed, depending on the location. The firm will also work with the task force to set priorities for the long-term health and “perpetuation” of the urban forest, a staff report stated.

Greening Ocean Park

A firm that is in the process of developing a hybrid concept plan for Ocean Park Boulevard using two designs previously presented to council will need more money to complete its work.

Urban Studio is slated to receive an $85,000 contract extension, which will allow its engineering subcontractor to “determine the permeability and other physical properties of the underlying ground layers through a geotechnical engineering report,” a staff report said.

The engineering sub-consultant will then use the study to make recommendations about the type of sustainability measure that can be instituted for the project.

The contract amendment also includes extra traffic analysis and revised concept drawings incorporating recent input from the council.

Cleaning up the Big Blue Bus facility

The Big Blue Bus, which is in the process of expanding its facility, is hoping to keep its current custodial staff a while longer.

High Tech Building Maintenance Co. has been providing maintenance services under an existing contract since October 2007. The council is expected to increase that contract on a month-to-month basis through June 30, 2010, for a total of about $174,000. The Big Blue Bus is expected to open bidding for maintenance services just before construction of the facility is completed.

A contract with Smith-Emery Co. is also expected to be extended by about $55,000 to allow continued inspection and materials testing services for the facility expansion project.

Medical consulting for City Hall

The council is expected to modify a contract with the Santa Monica Bay Physicians Medical Group, which provides medical examinations for city employees, for $185,000, extending the terms and buying City Hall time while it opens bidding for a new provider.

The existing contract with the medical group was set to expire at the end of June.

More money for environmental remediation

A miscommunication between city staff will result in extra money being needed to pay for groundwater remediation at the city yards and investigation of environmental conditions at the former P&G/Gillette site.

The council approved a five-year $1.4 million contract with ICF International last year to work on both sites. But only $274,396 was authorized for the first year of the contract even though expenses that year were expected to be much higher.

“The project has exhausted its budget authority for FY08-09,” the staff report said.

The council is expected to modify the contract with ICF International for a total amount not to exceed $1.73 million and spend an additional $113,015 to cover the additional environmental costs at the city yards. A contract with Worley Parsons Komex will also be extended by $6,649 to cover additional work requested by City Hall for the Olympic sub basin.

New street car

City Hall is planning on submitting a federal application requesting authorization to begin developing a street car project for Downtown Santa Monica.

The application, under the SAFETEA-LU program, which sets federal funding priorities for highway and transit projects, does not seek grants at this time.

melodyh@smdp.com