City Council chambers renovation dropped

The city provided an artist’s conception of the renovated City Council Chambers, which include bigger monitors on the dais and a large LED screen behind the council members.
The city of Palo Alto provided an artist’s conception of what a renovated City Council Chambers would look like. It would include bigger monitors on the dais and a large LED screen behind the council members.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto city leaders have killed the planned $1.7 million renovation of the City Council chambers, but not without some back-and-forth about council members’ “personal cheapness.”

The renovation wasn’t included in the city budget approved last month. In May, the city’s Finance Committee had voted to remove the renovation from the budget.

At a committee meeting on May 15, Vice Mayor Eric Filseth supported cutting the renovation while Councilman Greg Scharff said he wanted to hear more about the possible renovation before dismissing it entirely.

“I think it’s really important that we have a discussion on council chambers that’s thoughtful, and we go through the process,” Scharff said. “I may support the full council chamber remodel… I just simply don’t know without having the information in front of me.”

Scharff also brought up former Vice Mayor Greg Schmid’s comments at a campaign event in 2014 criticizing the $4.3 million renovation of the first floor at City Hall, including the community meeting room where committees meet.

The project started as renovations to a conference room, but grew to include a new front lobby, new carpets and upholstery in the council chambers, a new meeting room with glass walls and renovations on some of the upper floors of City Hall.

“I cannot say how wrong council member Schmid was,” Scharff said, noting that the council “never” used the room before the renovation and now uses it regularly.

Who’s buying pizza?

“You underestimate the degree of council member Schmid’s and my personal cheapness,” Filseth quipped.

“I tasted the pizza you chose,” Scharff said.

“Did I or did I not find you guys a two-for-one coupon?” Filseth asked.

The improvements would have included new audio-visual broadcasting equipment, voting systems and projection screens. The Berkeley-based Shalleck Collaborative recommended the city spend between $1.8 million and $4.6 million on the project.

In March, council members Cory Wolbach, Karen Holman and Tom DuBois raised concerns about the cost of the upgrades, but only Councilman Greg Tanaka voted against the motion.

It would have been funded by the city’s $17.2 million Information Technology budget, which funds maintenance and replacements for the city’s desktop, software and infrastructure needs.

The IT fund comes from 1.8% fees for city services, including building permits and inspection fees as well as fees charged by the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course.

The city councils of Menlo Park and Los Altos are planning chambers renovations, as is the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.