Downtown is finally getting a new fire station.
After more than a decade of studies, design work and a complex land swap, the City Council late last month approved a roughly $29 million contract for construction of the new station.
The current fire house, located at 1444 Seventh St., was built more than 60 years ago from wood and stucco. In 2007, a comprehensive study commissioned by the city found that the structure, which was already too cramped to meet the needs of the fire fighters housed there, was in desperate need of seismic upgrades to insure it would remain standing in the event of a major earthquake. The facility is considered an "essential services building," which means it needs to be operational and capable of providing critical services to the community following a natural disaster.
The necessary upgrades couldn't have been completed without thickening walls and adding corridors, which would further narrow the interior and make it difficult for fire fighters to move about efficiently in an emergency or properly store their equipment. Photos taken by the city show fire trucks squeezed together, their doors unable to open fully on one side. At least one emergency vehicle has to parked outside the station.
The old fire house also does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and has no separate bathrooms or dorms for female members of the fire department.
A new Fire Station No. 1, which serves downtown and the northwest section of the city, will be located at 1337-45 Seventh St., just a block or so away from the current one. It will include five bays to store fire engines and other emergency vehicles, a community room and living quarters for both men and women and underground parking for all staff on site. Environmentally-friendly features include rooftop solar panels, large openable windows and a heat chimney to utilize natural ventilation; drought tolerant landscaping and a large skylight to help brighten the bay floor.
With 27,000 square feet, the new station will have more than twice as much room as the existing one. And pedestrians will be able to get a good look at the fire fighting equipment parked inside, fostering more interaction between the public and the fire department staff.
The contract was awarded to a California-based company, Bernard Bros. Inc. While not the cheapest bid, city staff said Bernard Bros. has previously built two fire stations and "a number of high profile and complex projects in Santa Monica, most notable at Santa Monica College."
"Bernard Bros. Inc. demonstrated its understanding of the importance of site controls, cleanliness and communication with the neighborhood," staff said.
Most of the construction costs will be financed through a lease revenue bond.
Construction is expected to be completed in early 2020. The existing fire station would no longer be needed at that point. It will be up to the City Council to decide what to do with that structure and the land it now sits on.
To secure the site for the new station the City Council approved a land swap in February that turned over public parking lots located on Fifth Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue to a private housing developer.