Foreclosed building may be site of new Stockton City Hall

Earlier this year, the city solicited bids for new city hall space. With the current building in dire need of upgrading, city leaders thought it necessary to relocate, at least temporarily. While the city has not officially settled on a location, SCL has learned that officials are strongly considering moving into 400 E. Main Street—formerly known as the Washington Mutual Building.

For those who have forgotten, Stockton city government has a complicated relationship with the WaMu building. In 2007, Stockton bought the building for $41 million with the intention of using the space as a new city hall. However, the city began missing payments last year and Wells Fargo repossessed the property. Even after this very public embarrassment, the city is now considering leasing space at this location.  

Will Stockton's new city hall space be at 400 E. Main Street?

Will Stockton’s new city hall space be at 400 E. Main Street?

Financials aside, moving into the WaMu Building is an absolutely terrible PR move. You can picture the headlines now: “Bankrupt City Leasing out Space in Repossessed City Hall.” News outlets will have a field day. To put it another way, imagine if someone overpaid for a nice, big house, lost that house in foreclosure, and then asked to rent out the basement. This is essentially what might happen between the city and the WaMu Building, except on a much more public scale.

The specifics of the proposals are not public, so I cannot speak to whether or not relocating to the WaMu Building is a financially prudent decision. For all I know, the entity that now owns the building may be offering dirt cheap prices that the city can’t pass up. However, I do know that other bids were submitted and are most likely competitive with whatever the WaMu Building is charging.

If it turns out that the WaMu Building had the lowest bid, then so be it. Stockton can take the hit to its image if it is the most fiscally sound alternative. However, there are a lot of under occupied buildings downtown that are probably offering competitive prices that would not come with the stigma that the WaMu Building comes with. I hope the city makes a decision based on what makes the most financial sense, but I also cringe at the thought of media outlets piling on Stockton once again. What do you think? Take our poll below.

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Categories: Development News

Author:David A. Garcia

David A. Garcia created SCL in March of 2012. Garcia is a Stockton native with a background in urban policy and planning, holding a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA as well as a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. He currently serves as the Policy Director at the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation. David was also COO at Ten Space, a real estate development firm focused exclusively on Downtown Stockton, and continues to advise on their projects. Prior to that, he worked three years as a researcher/analyst for a Congressional research agency in Washington, DC. The views expressed on this site are entirely of the author's

2 Comments on “Foreclosed building may be site of new Stockton City Hall”

  1. RAS
    July 2, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    For me, it’s a numbers thing. If it makes business sense to move into 400 E. Main, the decision should stand on its own. And who gets to decide what makes Stockton look bad? Just because a reporter or blogger “may” spin it that way does not make it so. And re: Public embarrassment – really? I am more embarrassed about the crap accumulated at W. Oak S. & Madison than I am of any decisions that were made in the past and will be made in the future – poor decisions are not unique to Stockton…

  2. Jon Seisa
    July 6, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    Though a wonderful structure, the problem with the WaMu building for city hall, located over on Main Street, is this continuing and further logistics diffusion of municipal facilities that Stockton leaders over the years have tended to gravitate towards, for some odd reason; rather than consolidation of municipal facilities in a unified convenient location, and maintaining this strategy. The city leaders have strayed from the original municipal consolidation concept and purpose of Stockton’s original, albeit very modest, Civic Center on Center and El Dorado, and they have lost their bearings. This scattering process, in my analysis, dilutes the focus of the city’s civic identity with fragmentation, a diffusion that weakens integral municipal identity. This in turn runs the risk of developing a municipal psyche disjunction of the community where the community becomes disconnected from the city’s identity. The Civic Center is one of the primary aspects of a city that centralizes the city’s core heart, history, municipal business engagement and activities, and gives a sense of place for the community, while giving cohesion to the community.

    I truly do not understand why Stockton did not have a Civic Center Strategic Master Plan to maintain and grow the crucial Civic Center dovetailed with the city’s growth and needs, like other cities where all the civic and municipal amenities (City Hall, County Court House, City Attorney’s Office, Municipal Center, City Manager’s Office, City Police Department, DMV, U.S. Post Office, Justice Center/Law Library, Public Library, Civic Memorial Auditorium, U.S. Social Security Office, U.S. Small Business Administration, City Historical Museum, and so on) are ALL conveniently consolidated in ONE location and integrated and bridged together with continuity via a charming and sweeping civic plaza park-mall having public spaces, fountains and so on. Instead, we see a city’s civic facilities succumbed to a squeeze-out, and to a hodge-podge and haphazard reactive ill-design approach where all the integral civic components have been scattered irrationally throughout the entire downtown area in isolated and separated pockets of an incongruent mess, resulting in one needing to dash from one end of downtown to the other to take care of municipal business.

    Aren’t there any city planners in Stockton? This really should have been master planned and addressed a long time ago for the city’s future, knowing very well that city growth and outgrowing smaller aging facilities would occur, and would require expansion and renovation.

    Stockton really needs to create a Civic Center Strategic Master Plan and integrate all the key municipal components into the plan.

    Here is Denver’s magnificent Civic Center for inspiration:

    The San Francisco Civic Center is another prime example:,_San_Francisco

    Pasadena’s charming Civic Center:

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