Brighton Restroom Won’t Be Constructed Until September and Will Cost $200,000 More
The news last night (Feb 2nd) was not good for those who have been anticipating the City of San Diego beginning its construction of the Brighton Avenue public restroom, down at the beach.
Kevin Oliver and Elif E. Cetin from the City of San Diego Engineering and Capital Projects Department presented the bad news at the Ocean Beach Planning Board’s monthly meeting. It doesn’t look like the City will begin construction of the “comfort station” until September 2011.
September 2011?? That means we have to go through another summer without adequate public restrooms in North OB. No sinks, no dressing rooms, no showers for another summer.
When the old restrooms were torn down in the Summer of 2009, the City said the new ones would be up in 18 months. That would have taken us to December 2010. Yet the completion date is 7-8 months away.
It is “disheartening” as one Planning Board member said.
Not only that. The price … last July the Planning Board was told by the City that the cost would be $480,000. Now the City is saying it needs an additional $200,000 and has to identify where those funds would come from. And the City cannot do that until after the start of the new fiscal year – July 1st.
And due to the Coastal Moratorium (no construction can occur at the coast from Memorial Day to Labor Day), it does not look like the City can even begin construction until September.
So, there you have it in a nutshell. Sort of.
Unless you have been paying attention to this issue since its inception. Then it’s a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment. Or WTF? in the shorthand of the internet.
And it dawns on the attentive observer: this City is so dysfunctional, it can’t even build a public restroom at the beach!!!
Time Line of the Brighton Avenue “Comfort Station”
We need to step back and try to re-grasp how far we have come on this issue exactly. Let’s look at a time-line of what the City calls a “comfort station.”
Mid-1970s – The Brighton Ave. restrooms are built and opened to the public. (This date is up for contention, but I think it was around 1973 to 1975, not the “1964” date that some have used.)
Late July 2009 – hazardous conditions at the restroom building are reported when a city worker finds concrete breaking from the ceiling. An engineer determined the structure had to be shut down.
July 25, 2009 – City fences off area of restrooms;
Sept. 17, 2009: Reporter Helen Gao, when she was still with the Union-Tribune, reported on the rotting structure of the restroom and its closure. Her article stated several very interesting things: the City has decided to demolish the structure, instead of just replacing the roof. Also, her article states:
- the City deferred maintenance on the structure to save money, then is caught needing to spend even more funds replacing a public facility;
- Gao reports: “City officials plan to demolish the structure and build a replacement in 18 months.”
- Gao quotes David Jarrell, the city’s deputy chief operating officer for public works, who says
“the restrooms are more than four decades old and have deteriorated beyond repair. Pieces of the concrete were beginning to break off and fall into the inside of the facility,” he said. “All the plumbing is pretty well corroded. All the electrical stuff is.”
- In order to provide some restrooms for the public, the City has set up two rows of 10 portable toilets, and the city is leasing them for $1,341 per month.
- It is reported: before the start of the next tourist season – Summer 2010 – Jarrell said the city will replace the portable toilets with more appealing trailer restrooms, which include multiple stalls and hand-washing sinks. He expects the trailers will be brought in over the winter.
- Finally Gao reported:
Rebuilding the restroom will require the city to obtain a permit from the California Coastal Commission. Reconstruction is expected to cost $500,000 to $600,000. Money is available in the city’s Park and Recreation Department’s budget.
This last point is important. Reporter Gao wrote in mid-September 2009 that the “money is available in the city’s Park and Recreation Department’s budget” – this presumably means the 2009 budget. Not some mythical budget in the future. When I asked City officials at last night’s meeting, “weren’t the funds for the restrooms to come originally out of the 2009 budget?” – they didn’t know what I was talking about.
Fall 2009: the Ocean Beach Planning Board formed an ad-hoc sub-committee that had members of the Board, OB Town Council, OB Mainstreet Association, and citizens of the community to give the City input. The Ad-hoc sub-committee helped to choose an artist -Shinpei Stakeda – and architect -Kevin Defreitas – to develop a conceptual design.
Winter 2009-2010: the promised trailer restrooms, which were to include multiple stalls and hand-washing sinks, never materialize. There had been promises that “the trailers will be brought in over the winter”
June 16, 2010: the OB Project Review Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project as presented to the full board. See a background article here.
July 7, 2010: The conceptual design is presented, and the cost to build is stated to be $480,000. Elif Cetin and Kevil Oliver from the City joined architect Defreitas and artist Stakeda in giving a PowerPoint presentation at OB Planning Board meeting. The Planning Board votes unanimouslyto approve the designs. (See Dave Rice’s wonderful coverage of the presentation article here.) We reported:
With a few minor tweaks, the plans are tentatively scheduled to be submitted to the coastal commission in the coming weeks. Approval there could take up to six months, and the goal is to have the new facilities up and running by summer 2011.
December 2010: City places construction of restrooms out to bid.
February 2, 2011: the City’s Elif Cetin and Kevil Oliver give the Planning Board and the community the bad news. Because of the need for additional as-yet identified funds on the level of $200,000, the City has to wait until the next fiscal year, and construction will not begin until September 2011.
More of the Dirty Details
As Kevin Oliver reported last night, when the City placed the construction of the restrooms out to bid in December, it originally received four bids. Two of these – and at least one of them was a low bid – were disqualified. And at least one of these was disqualified because the format of the bid did not meet the City’s guidelines.
Local blogger, activist, and construction contractor Geoff Page has questioned in the Voice of San Diego why the City would go for a “design-build” project bid.
The lowest surviving bid was for $797,000. At this point the City determines that it needs more funds for the project and that it could save some money by tweaking the conceptual design. For one thing, the construction schedule was too expensive, it was told. Other tweaks include doing away with the solar panels – too expensive; changing the material of the roof, using galvanized steel instead of stainless steel.The City also has to build a concrete path to the street, for ADA reasons.
So, in the end, all the bids were rejected as too high (not the disqualified ones). That places the schedule to build back to the fiscal year of July 1st and the September date for construction.
Some people were visibly unhappy with this. Board member Scott Waschitz, who has experience in building restrooms, said it was downright “disheartening.” Businessman Dave Martin said:
“The business community will suffer another summer.” Its customers and the tourists will not have access to needed public facilities. He urged everyone to contact Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s office to help expedite the process.
In conclusion, this project has gone on way too long. The City should have simply replaced the roof of the original restroom. Or City workers should have built it. If they had – it would already be up.
Is this an example of what happens when a City and Mayor bent on “privatization” rely on the bureaucracy to enable private contractors?
Would it be out of order to say that the community of Ocean Beach has been given the runaround on the restroom? That things promised and pledged have not materialized? OB can’t even get a restroom while La Jolla got a new lifeguard station. Perhaps the City switched funds around as the comfort station was supposed to be built with 2009 monies and now we have to wait for the next fiscal year which doesn’t start for 5 months. We were repeatedly reminded that the City budget is in the crapper (pun intended).
The business community will be upset. Residents and visitors should be upset. This is outrageous and unacceptable! But what to do? For starters, call Kevin Faulconer’s office and politely ask him to look into this. 619-236-6622.
It’s an unwritten rule that the folks downtown don’t like OB. It gets more plain everyday.