Is Dusty Rhodes Park in Ocean Beach Another City Money Pit?

by on September 1, 2017 · 10 comments

in Ocean Beach

All photos by South OB Girl.

South OB Girl Looks at the Contract Between the City and Aztec Landscaping Re: Dusty Rhodes Park

By South OB Girl

Tree maintenance, weed removal, and gopher control were specified in the City’s contract for Dusty Rhodes Park– and not done.

As far as I can tell the City has thrown money into the wind (again) and not thoroughly or responsibly administered its contract with Aztec Landscaping, the company previously hired by the City for maintaining Dusty Rhodes Park.

A close reading of the contract is unsettling.  The details of this contract were not carried out.  There are specific jobs in the contract that were supposed to be done, were budgeted for, and not done.

In fact $2,400 was budgeted for the year for gopher and ground squirrel control (page 33 of the contract).  So looks like Aztec may have been paid for a service that was not done by them.  A pile of dirt was put in the dog park recently, and only those who inquired about it learned that the dirt was for people who went to the park to fill the gopher holes in themselves.  Additionally, there are still fresh rodent holes as of this writing and seems the City’s standard process of extermination is not working.

Another task in the contract, “Extraordinary Labor” was priced at $7,500 (page 33).  Nearly $10,000 between gopher control and extraordinary labor — to have dead trees, dead grass, and gopher holes.  Annual amount of $54,005.02 was budgeted for “park maintenance,” and the total annual contract pricing was $71,057.38.

The contract is extensive.  And I am sure only a few people have looked at it.  Dan Dennison and Mike Ryan have read it (as have I).  Dan Dennison, OB Planning Board member, and Mike Ryan, former member of the Peninsula Planning Board, have been at the helm of an effort to improve conditions at Dusty Rhodes Park.  And they launched these efforts at a protest back in May.

Most San Diegans or visitors to this (supposedly) fine city who have spent any time near or in Dusty Rhodes Park have noticed its current deplorable state.

This isn’t just an effort by local activists to improve the conditions and make the park pretty.  It is an effort to hold the City accountable.  Accountable for a park that is supposed to be under its care.  Accountable for tax payer dollars.  Accountability for park spaces may seem a basic part of City infrastructure, but it has fallen to the wayside at Dusty Rhodes Park.

Via the Public Records Act, Dennison obtained the official City contract for Aztec Landscaping.  Dennison shared performance metrics from the City contract with Aztec at the July 27th meeting of the Dusty Rhodes Park Recreation Council.  As reported here 153974, the contract expired at the end of June.  The project is up for bid and the City is currently maintaining the park (to date, a few minor improvements under City care, with much remaining to be addressed).

The contract is detailed.  33 pages long.  Section K of the contract describes all the various tasks that should be done.  Section K “Method of Performing Work” — is outlined as follows:

1) Park Evaluation and Safety Inspections
2) Irrigation Systems
3) Trash Removal
4) Turf Maintenance a) Mowing and Sweeping b) Edging c) Aerification d) Turf Renovation e) Turf Fertilization
5) Tree Maintenance
6) Planter, Shrub/Flower Bed, Slope, and Groundcover Maintenance
7) Playground, Volley Ball, Horseshoe, & Fitness Area Maintenance
8) Hardscape and Roadway Maintenance
9) Site Furnishings Maintenance
10) Maintain Storm Drains and Brow Ditches
11) Baseball Infield Maintenance
12) Weed Removal
13) Clean Comfort Stations a) Daily Services b) Weekly Services
14) Disease and Pest Control
15) Replacement of Plant Material
16) Traffic Control Plans

The City, according to the contract, was also supposed to be evaluating the performance of Aztec.  And seems most likely those evaluations were sporadic and perfunctory (or did not occur).  So this article is not just pointing a finger at Aztec Landscaping.  Evaluation by the City and the process for correcting issues in the park did not work or fell by the wayside.

According to the contract, the Aztec field supervisor should have ensured that the work was completed as specified under the contract.  It seems supervision was minimal.  According to the contract, the bidder should have established an annual schedule of work to be done.  Weekly inspection forms were supposed to be submitted by Aztec and routine inspections by the contract manager were supposed to occur to ensure that the contract areas were maintained in accordance with the contract.

Every week the field supervisor was supposed to prepare and submit an inspection form for each of the contract areas to the Department Administrator.  The forms should have included a list of items requiring remedial action with dates when required work would be performed.  Seems this process was faulty.

And a side note here– it looks like the City could have been saved some money — according to Section E of the contract, “Failure to Perform Satisfactorily.”  And that should interest the City — saving money!

Section E, “Failure to Perform Satisfactorily”:
“It is agreed and understood that if the bidder fails to perform the work as specified herein, the City will pay only for the amount of service actually received, as determined by the Department Administrator, with an appropriate downward adjustment in price paid.  Such adjustments may be in accordance with the Pricing pages of Task Costs provided herein by the bidder… Discrepancies and deficiencies will be noted on Field Inspection Notices by the Department Administrator and shall be corrected within the time specified.  If the bidder fails to take corrective action within the noted time frame on the Field Inspection Notice, the City may withhold payment…”

Another section that caught my eye.  Section D “General Specifications,” specification 10 “Repairs and Replacement”:

“The bidder, at no cost to the City, shall be responsible for the repair or replacement of any damage caused in performance of this contract, as directed by the Department Administrator.  The bidder shall replace any plant material which is damaged or lost as a result of the bidder’s faulty maintenance or negligence.  The size and species of replacement plant materials shall be as directed by the Department Administrator.  Trees shall be replaced as set forth in section K.5.”

And Section K.5, “Tree Maintenance”:

After some details about pruning trees and maintaining trees in their natural shapes…

“In the event of a condition or occurrence beyond the bidder’s control, the City may reimburse the contractor for the cost to remove large trees, if the Department Administrator deems that the costs are extraordinary and/or outside the scope of this contract.  For example, a storm topples a healthy ninety foot tree.

The bidder shall be responsible for the complete removal and replacement of those trees lost due to bidder’s faulty maintenance or negligence, as determined by the Department Administrator.  Replacement shall be made by the bidder in the kind and size of tree determined by the Department Administrator.  Where there is a difference in value between the tree lost and the replacement tree, the difference will be deducted from the contract payment.  In all cases, the value of the tree lost shall be determined by the Department Administrator, using the latest International Society of Aboriculture (I.S.A.) guidelines for value determination.”

And further down in the contract, Section K.15, “Replacement of Plant Material”:

“The bidder shall notify the Department Administrator of observation of any loss of plant material.  Any plant damaged or lost through no fault of the bidder, including vehicular damage, theft, or vandalism, shall be replaced in kind and size as approved by the Department Administrator.

Additionally, the City may desire to replace certain plants in order to ensure maximum healthy growth and overall aesthetic appearance of planting in the Contract Areas.  The necessity or desirability of any plant replacement shall be determined by the Department Administrator.  The bidder may charge Extraordinary Labor and materials, as necessary, for plant replacements with prior authorization by the Department Administrator.”

And those dead trees (still there today).  It is a good thing that the Dusty Rhodes Park Rec Council did not put $5,000 of its own funds towards the purchase and care of new trees– because it seems pretty clear to me that the City contract should be responsible for the dead trees.

At their July meeting the Dusty Rhodes Park Rec Council discussed a budget of $5,000 for new trees and tabled the decision in order to prepare a more detailed financial plan.  At this point in time I do not know and have not verified how the $7,500 budget for “Extraordinary Labor” in the contract with Aztec was spent or if it was retracted for lack of performance.  According to the contract some of the budget for extraordinary labor should have and could have been used to replace the dead trees.

More relevant and surprising language, Section I “Contract Start Up/Close Out”:

“Any deficiencies found in specified maintenance level shall be noted and presented to the bidder in writing.  The City shall be the sole judge as to what constitutes a deficiency.  The bidder shall correct all deficiencies noted by the end of the contract.  If the bidder fails to correct the noted deficiencies and turns over any of the Contract Areas in an unacceptable condition, as determined by the Department Administrator, the  City will correct the deficiencies that remain at the sole cost of the bidder.  All costs incurred by the City to correct deficiencies will be deducted from the bidder’s final payment.”

Dennison and Ryan have observed that over the past year, the park was not aerated as specified in the contract (in the contract, the turf should have been aerated 6 times this year).  The weeds were not removed, as specified in the contract.  Dog poop bags were not provided (until recently under City care), as specified in the contract.  Litter throughout the park was not attended to regularly, as specified in the contract.  Turf renovation, re-seeding, and fertilization — were not done — and are specified in the contract.

Rodent infestation occurred and according to the contract, measures should have been taken.  The extent of the rampant gopher holes turned into a safety hazard, and was not just unsightly.  It became difficult for people to avoid the holes and it was easy for people and animals to trip in the holes.

Sprinklers seemed to operate sporadically (as if the timers were not set) or not at all.  Though watering was restricted in an effort to conserve water, if a reduced schedule and regular watering schedule had occurred — or if a procedure for using reclaimed water had been put in place — perhaps some of the grass and trees could have been saved.  Somehow, Robb Field across the street was maintained and kept looking pleasant.  And other parks throughout San Diego too.

With Aztec’s contract having ended, it is a possibility that the City will continue the maintenance of Dusty Rhodes Park. If so, here are my questions:

Will there be performance metrics for the City?  Will the City set its own standards for maintenance?  And what will those standards be?

Why oh why — dear City of ours– does Dusty Rhodes Park look so terrible?

Why oh why were specifics written into the contract — and then neglected?

Will millions be spent in Balboa Park — again — and will our community park be left in shambles?

What will it take?  A new mayor?  A new head of Parks and Rec?  A new contract and new landscaping company?  More protesting by locals?  More funding?

How can we count on the City to address the issues at Dusty Rhodes Park?  When phone calls to City staff by the Dusty Rhodes Park Rec Council have not been returned.  E-mails have not been replied to.  Trees and grass were left to die and then left dead and brown.  How on earth can we trust the City when to date they have given us little reason to trust?  How much more money will be thrown into the wind?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Atenow September 1, 2017 at 4:39 pm

city likely wants to sell it off to developers for high density housing. everything around and under the expanding flight paths will likely turn into multi-tenant rentals including existing single family zoned… just a guess, though.


South OB Girl September 2, 2017 at 9:48 am

Quite possible. Thanks for chiming in! Contract closed out in June 2017– so the shortcomings and current state of the park should still be brought to the table as Mike Ryan, Dan Dennison, and I have done — for what what was under contract — regardless of a grander plan by the City such as you suggest.


O B Dude September 2, 2017 at 11:48 am

If the city cannot take care of little Dusty Rhodes park, how in the world are they ever going to maintain Mission Bay Park after they “develop it”?

What a shame….the park looks like crap and one has to wonder what kinds of disease is in the dirt at the dog park. Does anyone do testing there?


South OB Girl September 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm

One does have to wonder if the City can’t take of little Dusty Rhodes Park how can they take care of much of anything, including the development of Mission Bay Park. Re disease, reference section K “Method of Performing Work,” #14 “Disease and Pest Control.”

K.14: “The bidder shall regularly inspect all landscaped areas in the Contract Areas for the presence of disease, and/or insect or rodent infestation. If any disease, insect, or rodent infestation is discovered, the bidder shall notify the Department Administrator of discovery which notice shall identify the specific disease, insect, or rodent identified, the location, and specify control measures to be taken.”

Whether Aztec Landscaping inspected for diseases, no telling. Whether or not the dog park grass was inspected for disease, no telling. Whether the City is currently doing disease inspection in Dusty Rhodes, no telling.


Jane Donley September 7, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Dusty Rhodes Park is considered part of Mission Bay Park — yet the park’s bureaucrats and citizen committees have contributed ZERO dollars to the improvement or maintenance of Dusty Rhodes Park. Dog Beach Dog Wash donated more than $4000 a year in free poop bags to Dusty Rhodes Dog Park for several years, until the city took over providing bags recently. Mission Bay Park was the favorite baby of our mayor. He and Councilmember Zapf should be held ultimately responsible for the condition of Dusty Rhodes Park.


South OB Girl September 15, 2017 at 12:34 pm

At the July meeting of the Dusty Rhodes Park Rec Council, the council discussed putting $5,000 of its own funds towards the purchase and care of new trees in the park. The council tabled the decision — planning to consider fund raising options and a more detail fiscal plan for approving 5K. And the sentiment you have shared here is what many people think as well — the mayor and Councilmember Zapf should ultimately be held responsible for the conditions of the park. And a reminder for Zapf’s office– looks like there me be some amount of approximately $7,500 available from the contract with Aztec (or less, depending how much of the extraordinary labor budget has already been used).


South OB Girl September 15, 2017 at 12:40 pm

A more detailed fiscal plan for using 5K towards trees may be under discussion at the next meeting of the Dusty Rhodes Park Rec Council (which is Sept 28th, we’ll keep you posted). Currently I would like to research (if it is possible to find out) how the $7,500 budgeted for extraordinary labor in the contract was used.


Dan Dennison September 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Meredith’s article was very well researched, contemplated and presented! I admire her ability to sort through a significant amount of information and distill it very effectively. Mike Ryan and I got involved in this process simply due to our extreme frustration for the lack of/or non-performance of maintenance tasks at the dog park.

I naively thought that quantifying the variances between contracted service tasks and metrics for performance would strongly motivate action on the part of the Rec Committee and the appropriate City departments. Meredith’s article is most supportive of the operational analysis and I thank her for this!

Unfortunately, it seems to me that there really is a collective community sense of very low expectations for Public Sector performance. Therefore, even when something is seen as poorly done few have any sense of optimism that there will be improvements accomplished. This is very curious for me to see. I grew up in San Diego and have lived in several places around the country and really do not remember seeing such a low level of expectations. It’s sorta like here we are doing the high jump over 6 inch high hurdles.

We created a FB page for Dusty Rhodes Dog Park. Meredith’s article will be posted in it. The site is “Make Dusty Rhodes Park Great and Green Again”


Debbie September 12, 2017 at 9:00 am

The only time the city takes action is if there is media coverage or a lawsuit. As for the public they tend to speak out when the something is taken away. So if the park has to close for lack of funds for maintenance or presence of disease or if people have to pay for access then they will speak out. Otherwise there is little interest especially from the younger generation who are stuck in the their phones.

It sad that our Mayor doesn’t make parks a priority and that rec councils are powerless to make a difference.


South OB Girl September 18, 2017 at 10:17 am

Thank you very much for the kind words, Mr. Dennison. For those who may wonder how this detailed article came about — it goes back to the Dusty Rhodes dog park protest in the spring. Frank Gormlie asked me if I would like to see what the protest was all about — since I love animals and have written about animals previously. I said sure. Dan Dennison then obtained the Aztec Landscaping Contract via the Public Records Act. And this article is the result of the review of that contract.


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