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The location of a proposed new headquarters for the Vallejo Police Department appears to have shifted after the City Council this week pivoted away from considering a controversial waterfront location in favor of the building currently housing the library. The council voted unanimously to explore the library site option.

Public opposition to moving the department to 400 Mare Island Way on the waterfront has been pronounced. The council appeared to bend to the backlash and is now reviewing the relocation of the police department to the John F. Kennedy Library on Santa Clara Street, directly adjacent to City Hall.

Opponents of the Mare Island Way location cite the message it would send to visitors who will see a huge edifice to the Vallejo Police Department on prime real estate; myriad public activities take place along the waterfront, bringing in people from outside the city.

There is also concern about speeding police cars in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic, the high risk of liquefaction and rising sea levels that are projected to breach the bottom floor of the building in the coming decades, and projected and unprojected costs for the project. An estimated $30 million would be needed to retrofit the building, which would come from a bank loan to the city.

One thing that most people in Vallejo agree on is the need for a new station for the police department. The current station, centrally located on Amador Street, is cramped and outdated, with asbestos, mold and other hazards.

Police Chief Shawny Williams said it contributes to his department’s inability to attract new hires and retain current employees.

Turning the page

Vallejo has held community meetings to discuss possible locations for the new headquarters and invited the public to indicate suggested places on an interactive online map. From all the feedback, the council now seems open to abandoning the waterfront idea and giving a serious look at the library.

The costs for moving the library and remodeling its building to accommodate the police department exceed estimated costs for a waterfront station. Interim Assistant City Manager Terrance Davis presented the council with cost estimates for four locations during the council’s April 12 meeting.

One option is upgrading the police department’s current Amador Street location for $59.8 million plus additional costs for relocating the city’s corporation yard, which currently sits on the site and would need to be used for the expansion. Another is redoing the current site of the library, with estimated costs of $38.1 million, plus the cost of relocating the library to Mare Island Way.

“I’d really like us to come up with a complete plan and not a half-baked plan, where we’re just kind of moving forward without a clear understanding of cost, time, as well as, is it even feasible?”

Councilmember Hakeem Brown

The third is using city land or private land to build a station from the ground up or remodel an existing building, at $56.1 million, plus any additional costs to acquire the land if necessary, while the fourth is $30 million to retrofit the Mare Island Way building, which the city already purchased for over $13 million.

City Councilmember Hakeem Brown told city staff that he hopes a comprehensive plan can be prepared outlining all the factors that would go into the library relocating and the police department moving in so as to avoid having to backtrack midway through the plan because of unforeseen problems.

“I’d like to request that if we are looking to move into JFK, that we come up with a full game plan of what we’re doing,” said Brown, who previously supported moving the police station to the waterfront. “I’d really like us to come up with a complete plan and not a half-baked plan, where we’re just kind of moving forward without a clear understanding of cost, time, as well as, is it even feasible?”