Yard: The City Yard renovation aims to improve the usability and look of the facility. Photos courtesy of The Miller Hull Partnership

Not many residents have set foot in City Yards, but this 14.7 acre site in the middle of the city houses public works services that are essential for all Santa Monicans. However, the facility is in the midst of major renovations designed to increase resident interactivity, replace outdated facilities and construct sustainable buildings.

City Yards houses facilities for water operations, trash and recycling services, street maintenance, fire department training and more. These services are all critical to the City and many were unable to function optimally using the original 80-year-old buildings, some of which were seismically unsafe or even obsolete.

The renovation design was completed by Miller Hull, while the construction was done by Hathaway Dinwiddie.

The redesign of the site began in July 2019 with the construction of the Fleet Building, which was completed in June 2021. The Administration Building and the Fire Training Facility are set to be completed in late 2022, while other parts of the project are on indefinite hold due to COVID-19 budget cuts.

Located at 2500 Michigan Avenue, the Yards have been opened up to the north after decades of being hidden behind a high wall. The change is perhaps the most visually obvious change for residents.

“The design focuses on the public edges of the City Yards and uses courtyards, plazas, landscaping and lighting to beautify what was previously a blind wall and to extend the public area of the Bergamot Arts district across Michigan Ave. to the northern edge of the Yards,” said Michael Palmore, Associate at The Miller Hull Partnership.

A new event space is also planned as part of the redevelopment which will include a community room and enclosed outdoor courtyard for the community to use after hours and access independently of the Yards. For the over 200 city employees who utilize the Yards, the upgrades will create a dramatically improved work environment with new locker facilities and restrooms.

The renovations also reimagine the dated industrial complex as a center of sustainability and the project is designed to have net-zero energy.

“The project will produce more energy than it uses,” said Palmore, explaining the meaning of net-zero energy. “This is made possible by optimization of energy use through well-insulated wall and roof assemblies, the use of energy-saving mechanical equipment and light fixtures, an innovative heating system with radiant heating in the floor slab of the Fleet building; and by the production of energy through photovoltaic panels that cover the rooftops of all the new buildings.”

The project is designed to maintain water neutrality, which is one of Santa Monica’s overarching sustainability goals. This means that this building development will be completed without increasing the City’s overall water demand. By maintaining water neutrality the renovations will not hinder the City’s efforts to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2023.