Following the trail of the Brighton Ave. Public Restroom

by on March 16, 2011 · 7 comments

in Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

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.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

JEC March 16, 2011 at 11:38 am

Good job Geoff – the bid specs would be interesting – even $664,000 is high for a concrete bathroom, this is often the result of the demands. And the Minimum qualifications. Did the original RFP declare only pre-qualified bidders would be considered? And timing, it’s a joke for the city to fix a completion month when their own time frame had slipped so much. What I’ve heard must be true – that Saunders has pushed out those with effective skills. Makes you wonder about the qualifications of those new hires.


thinking out loud March 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Geoff did you see the repair work needed on the restroom before it was demolished ?
Having dealt with the City, the San Diego Housing Commission Lead Mediation Rehabilitation Program , HUD, and Environmental Services for 3 years extensively I can attest that they lack direction.


Frank Gormlie March 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Geoff, great! You are being very polite to the City by saying: “the City, to put it politely, messed this up.” In an earlier post, I called the City “dysfunctional”. See this:

Dave Rice has also chimed in on this issue: go here:


Rick Ward March 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Maybe the bids were so high because they plan on using the thing for apartments for the poor kids The Black seems to hate. By the is Jack still owner/operator of The Black?


Geoff Page March 17, 2011 at 6:43 am

JEC – No, there was nothing in the RFP about pre-qualification. The representatives at the City explained that it is a separate process that coontractors go through independent of any particular bid. I assume the City checks their pre-qualification list when bids are opened to see if the bidders are on it. I intend to look into this some more because I know from my work that it is very difficult for public agencies to establish pre-qualification of contractors. I would wager I will find some problems here also.

Thinking Out Loud – There wasn’t actually any repair work done, one day it was open and the next it was closed. I used the facility fairly often during my jogs and I never noticed any problems dire enough for condemnation. I guarantee the previously existing structure could have been made usable until the new one was ready to go but the City was not interested.

Frank – I cannot put into words how difficult it was not to type my preferred characterization of how badly the City handled this one.


thinking out loud March 17, 2011 at 7:12 am

I am sorry I was not clear. I was amazed to see it gone one morning (and wondered where the old debris went since no doubt it was lead hot) I followed this close I asked several questions months ago and was told to ” go away” by the City.
You confirmed my thoughts of many months ago …..why tear it down when for 20k or so it could have been repaired.
Typical for the City…knee jerk.


Geoff Page March 18, 2011 at 10:56 am

Thinking Out Loud – I would really like to know who told you to go away like that. Don’t ever accept that from the City. While it may be news to some of them, they work for us, the residents of the City of San Diego. You had every right to ask questions. Almost all of what the City does is subject to the California Public Records Act. Sometimes it is handy to remind them that you can get the information you want that way, which might be much more of an inconvenience for them than just being reasonable in the first place.


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