11:46 PM PDT on Tuesday, August 23, 2011

BY ALICIA ROBINSON
STAFF WRITER
arobinson@pe.com

Riverside council members’ doubts about leasing downtown office space for $1.6 million a year have apparently been assuaged, as they took no steps to reconsider the issue at a meeting Tuesday.

Councilman Paul Davis first told colleagues he’d heard concerns about “the general perception of the gift of public funds and creating a monopoly” to benefit a private developer, but he ended by saying it was a moot point because the city already has signed a lease.

At issue is the city’s agreement to take over office space now leased by Best Best & Krieger, a prominent Riverside law firm the city often uses for outside counsel. The deal puts city utility workers in the law firm’s space, shifts police headquarters into the city-owned utilities offices, and allows BB&K to move into Citrus Tower, a new private office building.

Officials have said the moves are necessary because the deteriorating downtown police station is owned by Riverside County, which may want to someday use it for a new jail, though no plans are imminent.

Using the utilities offices at Ninth and Orange streets for police administration is cheaper than building a new facility, according to the city’s figures, and with the private office lease officials can consolidate several utilities offices into one place.

City estimates show the net added cost of the moves at $816,412 a year, most of which would come from the general fund.

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