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Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. (Karl Mondon/Staff)

There isn't any realistic way for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to reduce costs ("MTC must trim costs of office building," Jan. 28) because its reconstruction plans are pretty bare bones.

It isn't doing anything to change the ugly facade, except at the entry. The atrium to be cut through the eight floors is necessary to bring in natural light. Commissioners could, I guess, eliminate the one outside breathing, viewing space cut out of a corner of the top floor. But such a dreadful building needs a little relief.

Most of the recent cost increases were known before the purchase of the building, but withheld from the commissioners.

They did not know half of the top floor was occupied by a Drug Enforcement Agency lab with a lease until June 2015, requiring a costly workaround. And, regarding the seismic, which went from $1 million to $11 million, Steve Heminger, executive director, admitted at the last Bay Area Headquarters Authority meeting, "We knew it was never going to cost that."

If the commissioners had had full disclosure of the knowable costs of $215 million, would they have voted 8-6 to purchase the building?

The unknowable costs are yet to come and could move closer to $300 million. Some of the surprises may be revealed during soft demolition, which will continue until July.

The current plans are for only 25 percent of the space to be leased to outside tenants. But leasing even that will not be easy because parking at this transit-challenged location is very inadequate.

They can no longer expect recession level construction bargains, and contractors prefer new construction to can-of-worms reconstruction. It is very costly to force a building into a use that is against its nature.

But MTC can stop pouring funds into the 390 Main folly. There is a logical, far superior site for a Bay Area Regional Headquarters -- in the Transbay Transit Tower adjacent to the Transbay Transit Center, a project for which MTC has bragging rights.

After a meeting at which Paul E. Paradis, senior managing director of Hines, the developer, gave a presentation of the tower, I told him that I thought it was the ideal site for the new headquarters. He agreed and, without hesitation, stated they would buy 390 Main. Its value to them would probably be as an eventual teardown.

The cost of a long-term lease would be knowable and, most likely, considerably less than the reconstruction and maintenance of 390 Main. The completion date for the tower is 2016, probably before 390 Main could be ready.

Imagine moving into the dumpy 390 Main and realizing you could have had a V-8. That is, instead of being stuck for decades in a dumpy building off the beaten track with inadequate parking, and natural light from a noise reverberating atrium, you could be in a spectacular building at the region's transit hub in light-filled spaces with stunning views.

There would even be a rationale to use Regional Measure 2 bridge toll funds for a Bay Area Regional Headquarters at the Region's Transit Hub. Regional Traffic Relief was the purpose of RM2. The project at 390 Main is going in the wrong direction; it is contributing to traffic congestion. It would be fiscally irresponsible not to investigate this alternative.

The entire commission sitting as the Bay Area Toll Authority will make the final decision on the additional $48 million on Wednesday. .

Joyce Roy is a retired architect and Oakland resident.