, May 23, 2022

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Vallejo City Council to again vote on $30M loan for police HQ, protest planned


  •   3 min reads
Vallejo City Council to again vote on $30M loan for police HQ, protest planned
The proposed Vallejo police headquarters building at 400 Mare Island Way.

VALLEJO – A controversial proposal to apply for a $30 million loan from the state to retrofit a two-story building along the city of Vallejo’s waterfront to serve as a new Vallejo police headquarters will return before the Vallejo City Council on Tuesday.

The council was originally scheduled to vote last month on whether to seek a loan from the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank), to fund design and retrofit work for 400 Mare Island Way for use by Vallejo police. However, community members – along with families members of men killed by Vallejo police – demanded the council not go through with the loan application.

The council listened and in a 6-1 vote, with councilmember Hakeem Brown opposed, temporarily paused discussion on the loan, instead directing staff to seek feedback from the community on possible alternate sites for police headquarters.

A police accountability rally is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting. Organizers are demanding that the council oppose the loan application and repair the department’s current headquarters at 111 Amador St.

Protest organizers are also advocating for several Vallejo police officers to be fired for bending the tips of their star-shaped badges after being involved in an on-duty shooting.

A similar rally was held before the March 8 city council meeting. That meeting was interrupted for about 20 minutes as family members of people killed by Vallejo police demanded that the badge bending officers be terminated. Some spoke to Vallejo Police Chief Shawny Williams, pleading with him to reform the department.

After that meeting, city hall released a mapping tool allowing the public to indicate where they would like to see the new headquarters located. The city received more than 200 responses, with several participants suggesting multiple locations.

Suggested locations included the Park Place Shopping Center at 4300 Sonoma Blvd, which was once home to the Raley’s supermarket. Another location mentioned was the former WalMart building at 5180 Sonoma Blvd.

“The old Raley's is already built with services, has abundant parking, access to Broadway, Sonoma and Hwy 37,” wrote resident Anne Carr. “If combined with the former gym next door, it would reduce development costs.”

Loretta Baker advocated for the former Walmart location, stating it would be the “best location” with lots of parking and “easy to access to problem spots in Vallejo.”

Vallejo purchased the 400 Mare Island Way property in early 2019 for $13 million. City officials say it will cost about $43 million to develop it into police headquarters, which is cheaper than building a new building from scratch.

Since May 2020, several police divisions have occupied the waterfront building, including the department’s investigations bureau, detective division, and professional standards division.

Retrofitting the building would include adding a new dispatch and communication center, building a community room and emergency operations center, and adding a sally port and detention facility, a K-9 kennel, and multiple locker rooms, according to a staff report.

There have been grumblings in the community that the city and police department didn’t do its due diligence when looking at other possible sites for the new police headquarters. Interim City Manager Mike Malone has previously said the city looked at using the John F. Kennedy public library building, but an assessment found that the cost for a retrofit would be equal or greater than 400 Mare Island Way.

Another often-mentioned location is the 17.71 acres of land located along Rollingwood Drive and Benicia Road, where there are four abandoned little league baseball fields. The Vallejo school district agreed to sell that property to a residential developer for $8.2 million in February.

City officials said the building at 111 Amador St., built in 1961, can no longer support police operations because it has an antiquated HVAC system, asbestos, lead, and lacks sufficient backup power generators.

The council also directed staff to work on creation of a committee that would work on finding a suitable location to serve as the police department’s new home. The council can choose between establishing an ad hoc council sub-committee which can be composed of up to three councilmembers or creating a standing committee subject to the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law. If the council chooses to create a standing committee, it will need to provide staff with direction on the composition, structure and process for appointments.

The Vallejo City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday inside the Vallejo City Hall Council Chambers,  555 Santa Clara St.

Members of the public will be able to participate in-person or remotely via Zoom.

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