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Business Officer Magazine

Partnerships for the Public Good

To address the state’s need for quality scientific crime laboratories, California State University–Los Angeles formed partnerships with the city, the county, and the state to build a facility on its campus.

By Steven N. Garcia and Benjamin Figueroa

The Los Angeles Regional Crime Laboratory facility was first conceptualized in 1994. Initial planning efforts developed during the first four years, a series of funding redirections took place over the next four years, and final planning and construction occurred over the past four years. The facility will address critical space needs for each public agency involved and bring forensic science laboratory and equipment requirements to current standards. Working with city and county agencies and the state, CSULA is providing a much-needed resource and learning the secrets to making a collaborative venture work.

Getting Off the Ground

The project site is approximately 6 acres with a 209,080 square-foot facility and 400 parking spaces. Tenants will include the Los Angeles Police Department Scientific Investigation Division, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Scientific Services Bureau, and the CSULA School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics and its California Forensic Science Institute. The city and county agencies will each occupy 43 percent of the five-story building, and the university will occupy 14 percent of the space. The project budget is $108 million, with $96 million financed through long-term debt by the state using its public works board financing arm. The California Department of General Services, in cooperation with the California Office of Emergency Services, is responsible for overall project management.

Space assignments and operations will be managed by a Joint Powers Authority that was created between the city of Los Angeles and the county of Los Angeles. The five board members are the county chief administrative officer, the city chief administrative officer, the county sheriff, the city police chief, and the president of CSULA or designee. (The president designated the institution’s vice president for administration and chief financial officer.)

Additional stakeholders from each of the partners became involved as the project moved from concept to funding commitments to construction planning. The volume of participants and the multiple schedules and requirements added complexity. On the university side, the project lead changed from academic affairs to administration and finance as the project shifted focus to its financial, organizational, and contractual elements. Project partners overcame these obstacles by allocating additional time to address stakeholders’ concerns and incorporating more time for each agency to work through individual decision-making processes.

The partnership’s most attractive feature is that the two law enforcement agencies are creating shared space and shared brain trust. Co-location at a university will help maintain scientific currency, and the space will be a center for preparing future forensic scientists. The broader Southern California region benefits specifically, but the state also benefits as a whole.

CSULA chartered the California Forensic Science Institute to optimize co-location benefits. CFSI is bridging the gap between scientific developments and their applied use in crime laboratories by bringing together experts from crime laboratories; university faculty and graduate students; and private sector scientists. In-service training will meet a growing need for professional development to improve existing methodologies, develop new technologies, and acquire knowledge about the latest tools and techniques. In its advocacy capacity, CFSI has started organizing symposia, conferences, and other activities to help foster public understanding of forensic services policy and practices and to lobby for adequate resources for forensic science agencies.

The partnership’s funding was due in large part to the persistent efforts of the County of Los Angeles Sheriff Leroy Baca. Working with CSULA President James M. Rosser, Governor Gray Davis, and Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, Baca generated the commitment and support needed from the various partners. The initial plan called for the state to allocate a $132 million one-time appropriation to the city and county to build the facility on ground that would be leased from the university. However, the state’s financial picture changed and the appropriation evaporated, forcing the partners to pursue funding approval from California voters through a crime construction bond initiative. The initiative failed statewide by a small margin, but results indicated that the majority of Los Angeles voters supported the initiative. That support served as the impetus to continue seeking financial support from the state.

Through subsequent legislation, $96 million was allocated for construction in the form of bonds. This meant that while the new facility was earmarked for use by the county, the city, and CSULA, the state would need to assume responsibility for planning and construction as well as maintain ownership of the facility during the 30 years that the bonds remained outstanding. As a result, the partnership extended to four partners, further complicating an already challenging undertaking.

Investing in Community: The West Philadelphia Initiative

By Anna Marie Cirino

Recognizing a link between the vitality of the University of Pennsylvania and the quality of life in West Philadelphia, the university and the community forged an alliance to transform University City of Philadelphia into one of the most vibrant urban neighborhoods in the country. Designed to stimulate neighborhood reinvestment in West Philadelphia, Penn focused on addressing five areas:

  • cleanliness and safety of the neighborhood,
  • availability of excellent school options,
  • high quality, diverse housing choices,
  • reinvigorated retail options, and
  • increased job opportunities through economic inclusion.

At NACUBO’s recent Public-Private Partnerships for Higher Education Facilities program, Omar Blaik, Penn’s senior vice president for facilities and real estate services, shared the strategies behind these goals and described implementation. Through committed, sustained university leadership as well as a substantial initial financial investment, the West Philadelphia initiative yielded impressive results, including:

  • declining crime rates;
  • reliable maintenance of streets and public spaces;
  • creation of a university-assisted public school;
  • a stronger real estate market;
  • development of retail facilities patronized by shoppers from both the campus and the community; and
  • a major increase in participation by neighborhood and minority residents and businesses in university-sponsored construction projects and the procurement of supplies and services.

Mixed-Use Models

NACUBO’s program, expanded this year to include facilities beyond student housing, featured a visit to the Penn campus and West Philadelphia neighborhood. Participants toured innovative projects and mixed-use developments, including the Left Bank project, among the largest properties converted to residential use to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Penn funded this $58 million seven-story rental project in a former GE Aerospace Headquarters. The award-winning building houses 282 apartments for faculty and graduate students; the Penn Children’s Center; and Penn’s Department of Facilities and Real Estate Services. Directly across the street, another property converted to mixed use houses a radio station, a restaurant, and a music venue.

In a session on campus retail and joint ventures in real estate development, Penn’s Paul Sehnert and Tony Sorrentino, and Kathy Lin, of BlackRock, shared their approaches to negotiating deals and structuring joint ventures. Another session featuring Blaik, David Adelman, of Campus Apartments, and Lewis Wendell, of University City District, highlighted the planning and development that transformed the University City neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

Major implementation activities included public safety and neighborhood services improvements; homeownership promotion; strengthening the West Philadelphia single-family housing market; acquisition, upgrading, and reoccupancy of deteriorated apartment buildings; development of major new retail facilities; and support for revitalization of neighborhood commercial corridors. Attendees explored solutions and decision-making tools to determine whether partnering with a private developer might help their institutions meet increased demands for new and upgraded facilities.

ANNA MARIE CIRINO is associate director, financial management policy, at NACUBO.

Deal Structure and Usage Agreements

The bond issuance and related state ownership requirements called for the university to lease the ground to the State Department of General Services, and a series of leases and sub-leases would ensue. The deal structure required two ground leases and five space leases that had to be negotiated concurrently to make sure the terms and conditions applied to each document. Under the 75-year agreement, facility ownership will rest for the initial 30 years with the state while debt is outstanding and will pass to the Joint Powers Authority for the subsequent 45 years, with the improvement transferring to the university at the end of the term.

The agreements were specific regarding facility use and users during the partnership’s term, with the university retaining approval for any changes in tenancy. The design incorporates the university’s open public space along with the restricted floors of the sheriff and police departments. In addition to the shared lab space between the two law enforcement agencies, all three tenants agreed to share library space. The university retained external signage authority as well as rights to any commercial enterprise in the facility. The partners also agreed that the city and county would have exclusive parking use during normal business operating hours, and the university would have parking access after hours and on weekends. In anticipation of long-term facility needs, the partners also decided to annually fund a deferred maintenance/demolition account. This was particularly important for the university, not only because it needed to ensure that funds would be available to prevent disrepair, but also to ensure that funds would be available for demolition in the event that the university elected not to accept the facility at the end of the term.

The partners had sufficient time to explore and discuss deal points well in advance of formal contract negotiations. This meant that along the way there were several opportunities for the project to become derailed due to misunderstanding or miscommunication. A retired elected official was asked to serve as a mediator at different times during the project, including during contract negotiations. This shortened the time involved in researching, discussing, and evaluating particular issues. Each agency came to the partnership with various levels of experience, which required an alignment to ensure that stakeholders were operating with the same level of understanding at various project intervals.

A Group Effort

To facilitate project management, an internal planning unit was created with representation from all agencies. As the funding picture became clearer, the unit began meeting on a weekly basis and continued until construction started, holding meetings monthly thereafter. Through its sheriff department, the county took the lead for the unit. When construction planning started, a manager was hired to assist with the planning, construction, and overall project management. Unexpected hurdles arose in the construction planning phase related to land and utility requirements. For instance, title clearance of the site identified for the project revealed that there were certain streets that were never vacated by the city when the university acquired the land. The rights of way held by various utility companies also needed to be identified, coordinated, and documented. Now the partners receive a monthly report from the manager summarizing payments, change orders, requests for information, status of the various construction aspects, and projected tasks and milestones. The Joint Powers Authority also schedules monthly meetings to address critical policy and management decisions.

CSULA at a Glance


566 (full-time)
475 (part-time)
Enrollment: 20,307 students as of fall 2004; 5,477 graduate students
Total 2004-05 Educational and General Expenditures: $158,914,771
Size: 200 acres, 19 permanent buildings
Location: Five miles east of downtown Los Angeles
Project Details
Location: California State University, Los Angeles Program Budget: $108 million
Project: 5-story facility on 6 acres; 400 parking spaces
State of California
Tenants: California State University, Los Angeles
County of Los Angeles – Sheriff Department
City of Los Angeles – Police Department
Harley Ellis Devereaux
Construction Manager: Jacobs Facilities Inc.
Contractor: S.J. Amoroso Construction Co.

Keeping the following in mind helped the partnership stay on track.

  • Remain flexible and nimble. In addition to dealing with changes in approaches to funding, the organizations involved had to sort out priorities of multiple partners and stakeholders.
  • Get to know your partner right away so you can get to work. While there may be common vision and goals, there are significant differences in how each partner pursues and achieves these related objectives within an individual organization.
  • Become familiar with the organizational structure and the key decision makers. These may include elected officials, chief administrative offices, legal offices, support offices, and facility users.
  • Establish relationships and communication. Senior leaders must set the tone by establishing a shared vision and mutually beneficial goals. However, don’t assume that your partners will identify your pitfalls or will voluntarily disclose everything you need to know. It is your responsibility to ask questions, follow up, and confirm.
For information on debt financing and management, go to The page includes a link to “Public-Private Partnerships Advance U.S. Higher Education Student Housing Projects,” Jonathan Jacobson (Standard & Poor’s).

As the project moves forward, the partners expect a transitional period during which they will learn to coexist and blend operational cultures. Once the partnership has matured, it will benefit the organizations’ internal communities and also demonstrate how higher education institutions can play a role in improving external communities.

STEVEN N. GARCIA is vice president for administration and chief financial officer, and BENJAMIN FIGUEROA is director of research administration, for California State University–Los Angeles.