The decision on the fate of a Decoto community center has been deferred till next month.
The City Council chose not to vote on the use of the building Tuesday night. Instead, Mayor Mark Green asked that the matter be revisited with a more detailed cost evaluation during the Aug. 23 meeting.
Located at 33948 10th St., the building, a former fire station, is a surplus property designated for future sale. Staff estimates that the property, which spans two lots, could be sold for $180,000 at the current market value and for far higher when the real estate market improves.
In the interim, Union City Leisure Services is using the site as a resource center and .
Community members and program participants have gravitated to the location and are asking city officials to repurpose the building as a permanent facility.
“I’ve seen what goes on in the building [and] it’s exciting for me because I’ve never seen anything like that, and I’ve lived in Decoto my whole life,” said artist Lilia Reynoso.
Reynoso is spearheading . She said she was inspired by the youth who frequent the facility and use it as a positive alternative to street life. The mural will empower residents and instill a sense of community pride in Decoto, she said.
“I, along with a lot of the youth here, we’ve seen a lot of tragedy occur on these streets,” Reynoso said before the Council. “To you it might be an old fire station. To us, it’s our place.”
Reynoso learned last month that the building is a surplus property and, as a result, could not be permanently altered by the mural.
She brought the matter up with city officials during the June 28 City Council meeting, where Vice Mayor Jim Navarro asked that Council discuss the usage policy of the building.
But making the building a permanent community center would not be simple — or cheap.
According to Deputy City Manager Tony Acosta, the building would require an overhaul to meet energy efficiency standards.
As it stands, the building is set up for its original use as a fire station, with two large rooms, dormitories and storage spaces. Renovating the space might require knocking down cinderblock walls, which could be difficult, he said. In addition, the city would have to provide funding for routine maintenance such as janitorial and utilities services, and for capital repairs.
“It simply wasn’t built to be a community center,” Acosta said. “It works now because it’s an interim use, so we’re just adapting to what’s there.”
A more detailed analysis would need to be conducted to determine what the maintenance, repair and conversions would cost, Acosta said. A staff report will be presented to the City Council on Aug. 23.
Officials reiterated that, regardless of whether the building is sold or not, the decision would not end any of the existing programs.
“I used to have a pair of Everlasts (boxing gloves) myself when I was younger,” Green said. “That does need to be continued somewhere in Union City.”
The boxing program could be relocated to the Kennedy Center’s multipurpose room, though that wouldn’t be optimal due to the size of the boxing ring and equipment, Acosta said. The First Five and Parks & Playgrounds programs would also be moved to other sites, Acosta said.
Acosta also listed as a possibility leasing space from the , which, due to budget cuts, has reduced its programming.
As a possible compromise for the mural, the public art could be painted on plywood panels and mounted on the structure so that no permanent alterations are made to the building. If the building is sold, the mural could be moved.
However, that would add $1,000 on top of the $1,500 that is being provided via grant funds from the boxing program, Reynoso said. Reynoso, a member of the Public Art Board and president of the Art Association of the East Bay, is volunteering her time for the project.
Community members spoke Tuesday night in favor of the mural project and making the center a permanent facility. Among them was boxing program member Alejandro Morales, who said the community center was a “second home.”
“It’s a place to go for safety, new interactions … and to feel comfortable,” he said.
Mary Schlarb, a community leader who works with Congregations Organizing for Renewal in Decoto, also spoke in support of the center.
“I’d reflected on the lives we’ve lost in the last four years. I thought: What if? What if we had the boxing center four years ago?” she said. “You can take steps that will affect the future of our youth.”
Council members applauded those who have helped make the center flourish, but cautioned that it may not be financially prudent.
“I’m really supportive of what is going on there,” said Councilwoman Pat Gacoscos, who toured the community center Tuesday morning. “I also have to be practical and realistic about our financial situation.”
“Right now, we’ll see,” she said.
City Council will vote on whether or not it will grant the 10th Street Community Center permanent status during the Aug. 23 meeting.
Council will also vote on that day to approve the mural, which, in the meantime, must undergo a public review process and receive support from the Public Art Board.