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People walk under the trees at Palisades Park on Monday. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

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.

CITY HALL — Trees and tree health continue to be a priority in Santa Monica, or at least that’s what city staff suggests when they place a request for another $1.7 million for tree replacement and care on the City Council consent agenda.

According to city staff, the additional money will allow contractor West Coast Arborists to remove and replace 350 dead and dying trees, as well as start filling the 1,180 gaps documented by the Urban Forest Master Plan study conducted in winter 2010.

The extra funds will make it possible to meet the Community and Cultural Services department’s commitment to plant 850 trees per year.

Staff wants to allocate $400,000 from the 2011-12 budget, and another $325,000 in subsequent years’ budgets to pay for the service.

Trees comprise just under half of the $4,178,254 requested in the lengthy consent calendar.

Unforeseen costs

Once again, the construction of an administration building for Big Blue Bus has hit a snag, and the City Council is asked to approve $567,466 worth of contract changes for additional design services, construction work and temporary trailer leases.

Construction of the building began in December 2010, but a lack of plans for the original building meant that staff stumbled upon code corrections and new problems every time a new stage of the repairs began.

Workers had to relocate fire sprinkler, electricity, and plumbing lines in order to put in new heating, ventilation and air condition ductwork. In the process, they discovered fire shafts and stairwells that weren’t up to code.

They also discovered water and termite damage, and had to replace mortar bed in the bathrooms that had been compromised.

The changes break down across three contracts. If approved, an additional $462,000 will be granted to the Harley Ellis Devereaux Corp. for design services, $76,544 to Thomco Construction, Inc. for construction and $28,922 to Design Space Modular for trailer rentals.

Library upgrades

The City Council will be asked to invest $400,000 in new software for the library computer systems, which officials hope will reduce complaints and bring the system into the 21st century.

According to the staff report, the library computer systems are currently managed using a software package called “Symphony,” designed by SirsiDynix, Inc. Symphony was installed in 1996, and is out of date.

Library staff formed a committee and advertised for the new system in October 2010, and received five proposals. The committee judged each proposal based on a number of factors, including how easy it was for customers to use and how well the library’s current records and information would transfer to the new system.

Polaris Library Systems won the $400,000 contract. It’s a one-time expense.

Leases

City Hall must put out $385,000 for a new space to house its print shop and mail room.

The landlord for the current location wants to redevelop the property, causing City Hall to seek out another spot that is a central location for the various offices used by city departments.

The new copy room will be in the one-story building on 1630 17th St. It’s 805 square feet larger than the current space, and officials plan to cordon off the excess to use for another office or operation in the future.

City Hall will also see a rent increase on its BBB Transit Store, at 233 Broadway.

The lease is currently month-to-month. The new contract would extend the lease for six years, with the 2011-12 rent costing $20,467.80 more than the previous fiscal year for a total of $106,470.

City Hall retains the right to cancel the lease after the fourth year, keeping open the possibility to move the store to a permanent location near the transit-oriented development along the Exposition Light Rail corridor.

The current location sees 2,100 walk-in visitors, handles 6,300 phone inquiries and generates $1.1 million in sales, according to the staff report.

Landscaping

Santa Monica comes loaded with visual appeal, but it isn’t cheap.

City staff requested another $220,464 be added to its contract with TruGreen Landcare for landscaping services at seven additional sites within the city, bringing the contract total to just over $1.8 million.

The extra landscaping will take place at Woodlawn Cemetery, the Big Blue Bus campus and transit mall, the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Bundy Drive, the Santa Monica Water Treatment Plant, Longfellow streetscape project and the Annenberg Community Beach House.

Landscaping already takes place at these locations, but gets paid for using individual contracts that end up being more expensive than the larger contract with TruGreen.

Promotional services

As the Big Blue Bus changes its routes in Culver City to accommodate the incoming light rail line, it plans to launch a number of new programs to bump up its ridership and increase revenues.

To do so, however, it needs capital.

BBB officials want another $226,000 to hire Trailer Park, a California-based campaign development and production company, to create promotional sales materials, information pieces about service changes, educate customers about various ways to access real-time bus information and trip planning services and increase ridership from Santa Monica College.

The products would take the form of exterior bus ads, digital and print ads and outdoor signage, which officials hope will bring in another $200,000 in promotional revenue and increase ridership by 4 percent, according to the staff report.

Staff selected Trailer Park out of 11 respondents.

The contract is for $171,000 over two years, with a third-year option for $55,000 for a total of $226,000 if they get used all three years.

BBB officials also want to contract with a separate graphic design firm, Robin O’Connell Design, to create print ads, signs, newsletters, reports, specialized fare passes, printed materials for festivals or special events and ride share programs.

That contract would be worth $80,000 over two years, with an option for a third year at $40,000.

Street lights

Community process does work, after all.

The City Council is expected to approve $144,144 for new decorative streetlights on 15th Street between Alta and Montana avenues.

City Hall will pay upfront for the entire project, estimated to come in at $175,014, and eventually charge half of that to the Streetlight Assessment District, which was formed specifically to get additional lighting installed on the street.

The original $144,144 expenditure does not include design, construction management or administrative costs for the assessment district.

The lights will be 15.5 feet tall “New York” style fixtures produced by Antique Street Lamps. Photos can be seen linked to the staff report on www.smgov.net.

Ground water

In its quest to make sure that Santa Monica can produce all of its own water by 2020, officials are looking at supply as well as demand.

The City Council will be asked to approve an $89,870 services agreement with Richard C. Slade and Associates LLC to conduct a groundwater assessment to quantify how much water is there, how much Santa Monicans use and possible locations for new municipal water supply wells.

Richard C. Slade and Associates LLC was one of two firms that applied.

Solar power

Since the Solar Santa Monica program rolled out in September 2006, the number of solar installations in Santa Monica has more than quadrupled.

The Office of Sustainability and the Environment is looking to keep on EcoMotion, the company that has managed the program successfully since its inception, for $75,000 in fiscal year 2011-12.

EcoMotion was identified through a recent competitive process to continue to provide project management to the program. If the contract is renewed for two additional years, the total cost will not exceed $225,000.

Solar Santa Monica links businesses and home owners with pre-approved contractors to install solar power systems.

Cutting permit fees

Santa Monica is putting “green” on sale.

The Office of Sustainability and the Environment has suggested eliminating permits for water reclamation systems on a trial basis to see if it encourages installation of grey- and rainwater systems.

According to the staff report, approximately 15 systems are anticipated to be installed each year, with a total estimated water savings of 325,000 gallons annually.

Encouraging people to install the systems, which will play a big role in helping Santa Monica be entirely self sufficient by 2020, is difficult because the retrofitted systems are not cost-effective when compared to the cost of normal, potable water.

It doesn’t help with the permit, which typically costs $983 to cover staff time and inspection, is worth as much as the system itself.

City Hall can expect to lose $15,000 per year from the permit fees.

Airspace management

An additional $10,000 is needed to retain the services of ASRC Research and Technology for consulting services regarding the Santa Monica Airport, specifically expertise in dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration.

City Hall’s relationship with the FAA has long been contentious, with disagreements arising over the eventual fate of the Santa Monica Airport, which some locals want closed but the FAA contests must stay open in perpetuity.

ASRC reviews FAA proposals and studies the potential impacts for City Hall, which also uses them for technical questions regarding FAA studies and communications.

ashley@www.smdp.com

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