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The Mullikin Medical building on 183rd and Bloomfield, the new home for the Astor Museum. The City will spend $6.7 million to renovate the building to house the Astor Family Collection of vintage cars and other items. Photo by Brian Hews.


By Brian Hews

The Cerritos City Council is finally going to get the museum it has always coveted since 2004, at a cost of $6.7 million, with $3.64 million in funding coming from California and insurance proceeds.

City documents indicate the remaining $3 million will be funded through the Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Fund.

The Astor Family Foundation and Arthur Astor approached the city sometime last year offering to donate over $3 million in vintage cars and other antique valuables if the city would renovate the Mullikin building on 183rd and Bloomfield to “museum status” to house the Astor Collection.

The collection includes, among other things, 31 fully restored vintage automobiles, 231 vintage radios, 82 vintage telephones, and over 200 other items.

The collection is apparently already in Cerritos, housed at 12880 Moore St., with all moving costs associated with the collection paid by the City.

The first estimate, in February of this year, placed the cost of renovating the 33,258 square foot two-story building at $3.7 million. It later jumped to $6.7 million.

Cerritos City Council staff documents indicate that $640,000 in funds would come from California and $3 million would come from insurance funds due to past “vandalism and theft” on the Mullikin building.

The documents at that time stated, “insurance funds will be utilized to repair the damage that the building has sustained and are anticipated to be sufficient to facilitate the renovation of the building.”

The Cerritos Council immediately jumped at the offer and drafted a lengthy and detailed Museum Agreement (MA) between the City and the Astor Family Foundation.

In consideration of the Astor collection donation, the MA stipulates that Astor will have access to and operate the museum for a period of five years.

The MA also stipulates that, “the period shall be for five, unless Astor seeks to extend the agreement.”

Astor will not pay rent, and will not be charged for electricity or water during those five years.

At $2 per square foot, taking out non-office space, annual rent would calculate out to over $600,000 per year.

City documents estimate the water and electricity usage to be $65,000 per year.

All tolled, Astor will save over $3.325 million over the five-year span, and that is only on the expense side of the MA.

Under the MA, Astor will be allowed to hold “special events” at the museum and keep all revenue generated by those special events. Astor can also charge admission fees into the museum and keep 100% of the proceeds

Astor simply has to pay for the cost of holding the events, keeping the museum open, and maintaining the inside of the building during the year.

According to the MA, the City will pay to maintain the entire collection, pay for property insurance coverage on the facility and the collection, maintain the landscape, and provide security.

The City, however, will be allowed to hold special events at the museum, only paying for “their own special event expenses.”

In 2006, the O.C. Register interviewed Astor about the museum he operated in Anaheim. Astor told the OCR, “I probably lose $1.5 million a year on this place.”

In that same article, Joe McPherson, with a garage that houses several vintage cars said, “We didn’t plan on being nonprofit, but we are. Very few (collections) make money. I don’t know of a museum that hasn’t had outside help to survive.”

Priscilla “Bo” Marconi, executive director of the $30 million Ferrari collection, said Astor and others like him compete with special-event venues ranging from the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda.

“It’s great to open his great collection, but it’s not easy,” Marconi said.

City Takes Over in Five Years

Under the MA , the City would take over the museum, along with the collection, from the Astor family in five years.

City documents estimates the cost of operating the museum at $400,000 annually and includes staffing, utilities, insurance, and ongoing mainteneance.

The cost estimates take into account the “robust volunteer program” within the City that will “keep staffing at a minimum.”

The City will employ a Division Manager and Secretary and two full time equivalent contract positions at a cost of $294,000 annually.

“General facility operating expenses” are estimated to be $15,000 annually with utilities pegged at $65,000. Other expenses bring the total to $400,000.

To cover the annual expenses the City will establish an endowment fund “eliminating the need for use of a general fund subsidy.”

The City listed several sources of funding including $200,000 in advertising proceeds from a “future electronic freeway sign,” admission fees, facility rental revenue and patron donations.

HMG-CN learned this past Thursday  that the City sold a building at 13043 166th for $3.5 million, the proceeds from that sale will be placed in the endowment fund and presumably fund the museum for an estimated 7 years.

  • Watching government take from uninvolved and uncaring residents says:

    WTF – What the city council approves and the city manager oversees appears to this individual as criminal. They continue to out do the city of Bell and Water District in misuse and abuse of public funds. What project has the city of Cerritos taken on that does not cost residents millions each year.

    As roads, sidewalks and private property are destroyed by city owned trees, that the city says they cannot afford to trim, the city council continues to flush millions of hard earned tax dollars down the toilet every year on pet projects

    As city fees are raised on residents, because the city says they cannot afford to continue the programs otherwise, the city council continues to flush millions of hard earned tax dollars down the toilet every year on pet projects.

    As the city council votes to raise water rates on the city’s elderly, because the city says the infrastructure needs repairs, the city postpones the repairs and continues to flush millions of hard earned tax dollars down the toilet on a museum.

    As the city council allow tickets at the Performing Arts Center be sold at and $80 per ticket loss as the Center losses an estimated $6 million per year, the city council chooses to flush millions more in hard earned tax dollars down the toilet on a museum.

    As the city looks to raise sales tax on the elderly, because there isn’t enough income to run the city, the city council chooses to flush millions more in hard earned tax dollars down the toilet on a museum.

    Many people have attempted to explained and to blamed the Bell and Water District abuses on uneducated immigrants who don’t speak the language or how government works. If that is true, then what explanation is there for what’s going on in Cerritos?

    Open-up your wallets Cerritos residents – Jim, George, Carol, Mark and Naresh are at it again.

    ABC = Another Brainless City


  • Curious Cat says:

    Wouldn’t the cost over $6.7 million, at this point?

    How much did the city pay for the building and property?

    How much has the city spent on the building and property since purchasing it?

    Sounds like this project is at least $10-$20 million in the red before the ribbon is cut and the chubby city council get their photo op.

    Any word on the rumor the city wants the church property for a parking lot? If true, add that cost into the total project.

  • Cerritos Council Made Another Stupid Decision says:

    I understand form an individual well connected with the city council that this museum will cost Cerritos residents $400,000.00 per year.

    And the reason given for wasting city money is as stupid as it gets. The city doesn’t want to give the property to the state.

    Instead of making a wise, adult decision with taxpayer money and wash their hands of the property the city council will waste not thousands, but millions of dollars of tax payer money.

    I would be willing to bet that the city council would not have made such a stupid decision if the money came from their bank account.

  • Model A Roadster says:


    Invite all residents in the city to tour the museum on Bloomfield / 183rd today. Said parking lot is in shambles, medical building suite has a lot of construction damage from city tree roots trespassing everywhere.. This is just embarrassing building and pad, the city has shown to the world, what tree roots can do to a property. This is a real thorn for the politicians and administration for the city of Cerritos.






    How did the city re-coop insurance money from Carl Warren Ins, when the residents have to file a claim and pursue Ins. Carrier with litigation………… Smells like political poop philosophy……..

    Furthermore, heard the Cerritos Republican Club is very upset at this newspaper article, this was suppose to be the Crown Jewel for the Republicans in the city, now the Republicans are very embarrassed and upset, this project is going to turn out to be another Cerritos Performing Arts, freeway to nothing but headaches. May I repeat myself, city is to provide management, not be developer nor landlord.

    From Get-Go, this museum is costing the city a lot more money, compared to the original bid. This sounds like something 25 years ago, when Cerritos Performing Arts Center construction, went way over budget by millions of dollars, construction was on hold by wildcat union strikes.. History is repeating itself, and the Republicans are very upset at this newspaper for advertising how the Micky Mouse finances of this proposed project is spinning out of control. This is just another wild out-of-control project by the Republicans for the city of Cerritos, they have no idea on spending money.

    Recently talked with a few Cerritos Union members, they’re very upset if they cannot get a raise or benefits, but the city can spend-spend- spend money on this museum. ( Just another chapter of the wives from Coto De Casa TV Productions). Museum location is not ideal to the Los Cerritos Auto Mall, and let’s face it over 80% of the city is Asian population, they’re just not into American history. Asians are not in to old American cars or TV / radios, they don’t want to hear or learn about history. If this was such a great museum, why didn’t city of Anaheim, where Astor Museum was located, do some sort of joint venture with Disneyland- Pond- or Crystal Cathedral?

    Temperament coming out of the local Congress Chapter, what a waste of taxpayer money. City council had to charge off union negotiations to Impass classification, as the republican seated council, were too silent on sucking their thumbs/toes.

    Hello Cerritos, another wild card chapter in our colorful Dairy Valley Township history.


  • See https://www.facebook.com/CerritosLosesMoney for more information on the long history of wasteful spending by the Cerritos City Council. Isn’t it great that they have so much “other people’s money” (OPM) to spend!

  • James says:

    When I saw the headline ‘Museum’, I was elated, as I thought the proposed museum would be a fine art museum, which I’ve long believed would be a great addition to Cerritos. Upon further reading, however, my heart sank when I realized that the City has plans to renovate the Mulliken building to house a car collection. It seems like a desperate attempt to generate city revenue, and a bad economic plan at that. Cars belong at Cerritos Auto Square, not within a highly civic area, across the street from City Hall, the Peforming Arts Theater, and Cerritos High School.

    The Muliken building could be transformed, instead, into a Cerritos Fine Arts Center. Here, community art classes could be offered to all ages, exhibition space could be provided for students and professional artists, rooms could be rented out for events. Fine arts would make a more elegant backdrop for weddings than cars! The great classes that the City currently offers in various locations would then be housed under one roof, where old and young would be inspired by each another. The facility would reinforce the civic quality of the area. Other Southern California cities have art centers, such as Huntington Beach Art Center Foundation, Irvine Fine Arts Center, Fullerton Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Palos Verdes Art Center. Why can’t Cerritos?

    Concerned Cerritos resident, artist, landscape architect