Cost jumps for Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District headquarters

An artist’s illustration of the offices the tax-supported Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District plans to open at 5050 El Camino Real. Rendering by Noll and Tam architects.

Correction: This meeting begins tonight at 7, not 6. The closed session of the board starts at 6.

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer

A new office building for the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District that was once priced between $50.3 and $59 million will likely cost between $59 and $60.6 million.

The district bought the building at 5050 El Camino Real in Los Altos for $31.6 million and has already spent $613,912 on engineering and design work.

In an open board meeting on Oct. 24, the board decided to wait until after it had closed on the new building to publicize the purchase and renovation.

The district does not post recordings of its meetings online, and no members of the public commented on the item at the Oct. 24 meeting.

At that meeting, the board was given a range of prices based on the extent of the building’s renovation and the amenities that it would include.

In October, the board indicated a desire to keep the renovation at what architects from the Berkeley firm Noll and Tam called the “enhanced” level, between $18.7 million and $27.4 million.

But following some board input on April 24, those plans have since shot up into the price bracket for the “aspirational” level and now start at $27.4 million, with possible add-ons bringing the total renovation to $28.4 million.

When added to the $31.6 million purchase price for the building, the project costs $59 million.

Acoustic ceiling clouds, bird-safe windows

On top of that, the board is set to discuss adding rooftop solar panels for $500,000, acoustic ceiling clouds to reduce ambient noise for $230,000 and “bird-safe” windows with etched designs to prevent birds from flying into the building for $220,000.

The district bought its current 12,120-square-foot office in 1990. Since then, the district has hired new employees, some of whom came after voters passed Measure AA, a $300 million bond measure in 2014.

Measure AA will not fund the building purchase or renovation.

To make room for all the workers, the district has had to rent out 8,000 square feet of additional space in neighboring office buildings.

The 39,000-square-foot building will be large enough at first to rent out space to others, which will help pay for the renovation.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight (May 22) at the district’s old office, 330 Distel Circle in Los Altos.

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10 Comments

  1. This is crazy! Is there no one on this board who is looking out for the taxpayer? If the district has 10 million dollars laying around to buy luxury items for its offices, I’d like to see that money used for acquiring more land.

  2. This is so disheartening. I’ve supported MROSD for years, but they’ve really gone off the rails with this office building project. Get back to the basics, like buying park land and maintaining trails.

  3. Sorry but I just cannot accept any justification for this. Even without the exorbitant cost, the lack of public outreach prior to the decision was unforgivable. It plays into every poor stereotype of such special districts and leaves the public with a bad taste in its mouth

  4. So now I understand why MROSD hasn’t been spending any money to reduce the overwhelming fire fuel load in the preserves. Why don’t they clean up all the dead vegetation or reduce the amount of hazardous invasive vegetation on their lands instead of this ridiculous project.They are certainly NOT good stewards of our land or our tax dollars !

  5. How about the use of tax dollars to place rangers in the woods to enforce their arbitrary speed limits? Yes – $400 tickets for riding a bicycle in the woods…not in a city, or running a red light, but on trails that have about 3 users (usually bikers)/hour. But sure, lets have this special district add more clog to our court system for the ‘good of the environment.’

  6. Everyone on the board who approved this building needs to go in the next election. The district has lost its focus on open space. I voted for Measure AA, and I’ve been supportive of Midpen over the years. But this is outrageous.

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