Larkspur hesitant to commit to $10 million City Hall remodel

Larkspur could spend $10 million on remodeling its historic City Hall — or move it.

Renovation is needed at 400 Magnolia Ave. after recent assessments indicated that parts of the building were nearing an end, Public Works Director Julian Skinner told the City Council Wednesday.

Many repair and maintenance tasks have been complicated by issues with the building — which is deficient in accessibility, seismic structure, electrical and heating ventilation and air-conditioning infrastructure. The building also is plagued by a lack of adequate fire sprinklers, mechanical, electrical and alarm systems issues and an elevator that is out of date and unreliable.

The reality is, for much of the building’s operations, “it’s not a system you would put in a building today or even 20 years ago,” Skinner said.


City Manager Dan Schwarz said problems are “reaching a magnitude where the cost to address them is growing exponentially.

“We don’t want to have to one day put a sign on the door that says sorry the elevator stopped working permanently,” he said.

To bring the 9,300-square-foot building up to current code standards would start at an estimated $7.5 million, but architectural design costs with all fees takes the estimated cost to $10 million, Skinner said. A preliminary estimate for a new building of similar size would be $9 million.

The council was hesitant to commit to any particular strategy. Staff said continuing operation at the location will not be sustainable, Skinner reported. That means analyzing options for all offices, the council chambers, and library in an alternate location if necessary.

The city has discussed building a new library and community center on a city-owned plot on Rose Lane.


Rose Lane Terrace owner Julie Allecta said she believes the council should consider the Rose Lane library/community center parcel as a site for a new building. She said the historic structure “could be repurposed in a variety of ways to benefit the city” pointing to the Presidio in San Francisco and Hamilton Field in Novato.

Dyan Pike of Friends of the Larkspur Library Board said, “I would urge that funds be set aside for the successful move of the library to temporary quarters. And that library support groups such as The Commons be included in the planning so that the use of funds is maximized for the long term.”

Rick Adler said he believes a new city hall should be built that is “fire proof, earthquake safe, solar electric powered, captures rainwater, disabilities-compliant, is filtered, ventilated, air conditioned.”

He said it is practical to build a new structure rather than rehabilitating a “crumbling building of toxic materials” that can be designed to look like the old city hall if desired — and proposed combining City Hall and the library to save time and money.

Mayor Kevin Haroff said, “I just want to make sure everybody understands this might include selling the property and using those resources toward solving our program problems, including the (Rose Lane) community facilities parcel.”


Councilmember Gabe Paulson asked if a new building would be able to have the same look and feel with the architectural look. Schwarz said creating something with the same aesthetic must be vetted by historical architects.

Councilmember Catherine Way recommended exploring modular portable units within the Rose Lane parcel while looking for shared space opportunities, calling it an opportunity to build a new library and community center.

“I think we need to be nimble about this, this is a big conversation about what we do with 400 Magnolia and I don’t even think that needs to move forward at this point.”

Schwarz acknowledged the council wanted a broader conversation. “There’s so much to unpack here,” he said.

Way said the community does not want a library at 400 Magnolia Ave. and Councilmember Scot Candell added if it ends up at Rose Lane they should hurry to prevent costly delays. The staff will explore community sharing opportunities to keep costs down before the next report, officials said.

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