by Geoff Page / March 16, 2011
As a follow up to my last two posts [at Voice of San Diego here and here], I went down to the City Purchasing Department to look at the design-build proposals that were submitted for the Brighton Avenue Comfort Station in Ocean Beach. What I found out there and in subsequent calls to the proposers on the project just reaffirmed my original suspicion that the City, to put it politely, messed this up.
There were four proposers. The proposals were in two parts, one being the qualifications and plans and the other being the price for the work. The City showed me four proposals and two price packages. They said that two bidders were disqualified and their price proposals were not opened. They told me the bidders were disqualified because they had not been pre-qualified. The City initiated a pre-qualification program some years ago, a process contractors have to go through to show they have the experience and financial wherewithal to bid projects. This involves some paperwork and a review process and once it is done, the contractor can bid on projects of a certain size depending on this qualification procedure. The proposals for the two rejected proposers were the best looking of the four.
The two “responsive” proposers had presentations that were much less professional looking. One was a thin booklet about a half inch thick compared to a three-ring, tabbed binder for one of the rejected contractors. The two responsive proposers had prices of $797,000 and $860,000. Ridiculously high for this kind of a building.
I called the two proposers that were rejected. The first one was surprised to hear that they were rejected because of pre-qualification. They told me that Kevin Oliver from the City sent them an e-mail message before the bid saying that pre-qualification was not a requirement for the proposal. This proposer said they got a letter from the City saying all bids were rejected and they had no idea the City had opened two of the four proposals. Here is what the City sent them:[ Editor: this link is missing currently.]
One of the proposers bid $726,000 for construction and the other bid $664,00. I asked why the costs for construction alone were so high. I got three answers. The first was that the City had included some very expensive materials in the design. The second was that the time frame required by the City was unrealistically tight; the project had to complete at the end of June. The third answer was that the documents and information provided was so full of holes and uncertainties and the City was so unresponsive to questions that the contractors bid it high to cover themselves.
One of the rejected proposers said they were told they were disqualified because they failed to fill out a labor compliance form. They said that prequalification was not the issue according to what they were told. They had yet to receive a letter from the City formally explaining why they were rejected.
Geoff Page has lived in San Diego for 33 years, 30 of those years on the Point Loma peninsula. He was a previous member of the Peninsula Community Planning Board for two years, six months as Chair, and he was elected to the board in 2010 for a new three year term. He has been in the construction business for 37 years and holds California General Engineering and General Building licenses. He is currently a construction claims consultant and provides expert testimony in construction litigation. Geoff blogs at Voice of San Diego and can be seen here.