Ashley Napier, Special to the Daily Press

A unanimous council has advanced plans to demolish a downtown parking structure to make way for an affordable housing project.

At Council’s July 13 meeting, six members of the council approved a contract to AMPCO Contracting Inc. for the demolition of Parking Structure Three and approved a Request for Proposal from Arcadis, a Program Management consulting firm. Newly appointed Councilwoman Lana Negrete was absent from the meeting.

In a decades-long pursuit to remove the five-story decaying structure, due to its urgent need to be retrofitted, council approved a bid to AMPCO in an amount not to exceed $2,552,566 and awarded a Request for Proposal to Arcadis in an amount not to exceed $172,800.

The five-story structure houses 337 parking spaces and is located on 4th Street and Arizona Avenue, posterior to the 3rd Street Promenade.

The item had been scheduled for the consent calendar, the portion of the agenda usually passed without discussion, but Councilman Phil Brock asked for a staff report and individual vote.

Civil Engineer, Curtis Castle said the demolition of the structure has been contemplated by the city for almost two decades, starting with the implementation of the Downtown Parking Task Force in December 2000. He said there is structural damage to the building including noticeable cracks in the concrete facade and broken tendons — steel wires wrapped into a cable that support the building. While other parking structures have been fixed, Structure Three is in need of several million dollars in repairs.

Mayor Himmelrich noted the similarities between this building and “other concrete buildings that have been in the news lately” mostly likely referring to the Surfside Condo Collapse in Florida.

The proposed plan was met with controversy from concerned residents and business owners, who consider the building as an integral part of the parking system in the downtown area and would like to see it restored. Local resident, John Alle started a petition eight weeks ago to prevent the demolition, which has accumulated 2,600 signatures to date.

“The only constant with successful retail restaurants and movie theaters is availability of safe parking,” said Alle. “When 337 spaces are taken away from the public you are here to serve, we are in effect closing our borders.”

The Bayside Owners Association is also against the current plans to demolish the structure and are reportedly suing the City and the California Coastal Commission over the approval of the Coastal Development Permit to demolish parking structure three, claiming that the city is “piece-mealing” this plan as it goes along.

Castle rebutted the concerned residents, noting that “there’s been multiple opportunities for the public to be involved” throughout its 21-year history.

He also referenced the 2020 Walker Parking Study, which aimed to analyze the impact that Parking Structure three has on Downtown and the adequacy of the parking supply in Downtown and the Coastal Zone. The report concluded that “the proposed demolition of PS 3 would not generate additional parking demand” but that even on peak days, there would be approximately 2,015 empty spaces throughout the multiple structures that already exist in downtown. This includes the re-design of parking structure six in 2009 to include 750 spaces, 400-of-which would supplement the 337-lost in parking structure three.

Critics have said the study is flawed due to the inclusion of data from the past year including the time residents were under lockdown.

Castle went over the project proposal, recommending that the City Council Authorize the contracts due to the fact that the capital investment to retain and retrofit the structure is currently set at $4.5 million, including the possible risk of damage to life and property in the event of a significant earthquake, with future budget actions to be taken for maintenance of the structure over time. The demolition project is currently budgeted for in the 2019-2020 Capital Investment Plan budget.

The Council approved the Bid and RFP unanimously, with newly apointed Council Member Lana Negrete absent. Council members Phil Brock and Oscar De La Torre originally abstained from the vote, but ultimately changed their vote to align with the Council.

Mayor Himmelrich noted that “we [the city] are scheduled to receive an earmark later in the year from the United States Congress, through our congressman Ted lieu for $2 million of the cost of demolition,” due to their plans to replace the structure with 100 percent affordable housing. City Manager, John Jalili stated that the earmark has been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and that the earmark will be before the full House in a few weeks where he said, “it is highly improbable for that not to be approved.”

There are no official plans for the demolition of the structure yet, due to the fact that the project was put on hold in the murkiness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the project manager laid off by the city in 2020. However, Director of Community Services, Andy Agle assured the council that they are ready to restore the Project Manager and submit a staff report detailing the proposed timeline of the project.

Councilmember Phil Brock asked for the structure to remain open through the holidays.