North OB Gateway project bogs down because of contractor-search problem
by Tony de Garate
Jan 16, 2014 | 1658 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The North Ocean Beach Gateway project won’t be completed until this summer at the earliest because of difficulty locating a contractor to construct the second phase, city officials told members of the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation during a regular OBCDC meeting Jan. 9.

The news provoked exasperation and an extended tongue-lashing from some board members — and at least one wondered out loud if the rest of the project should be scrapped before its swelling budget threatens other projects in the community.

The project’s first phase — a quarter-acre, mini-park at the corner of Sunset Cliffs and West Point Loma boulevards — was completed two years ago this month at a cost of more than $845,000. A paved, wheelchair-accessible path was to sprout from the north side, meander along the property where Anthony’s Restaurant once stood and connect to Robb Field in the second phase.

A year ago, the city put the second phase out to bid for an estimated cost of $150,000 and expected completion date of August 2013, documents show. Officials now seek a budget of $400,000, plus an additional $50,000 for contingencies, said Mark Nassar, deputy director of the city’s Public Works Department, Architectural Engineering and Parks Division.

Board members also raised eyebrows when Nassar disclosed that, of the $200,000 budgeted for the project so far, $75,000 has been eaten up by “soft costs” to pay for staff time and a design firm consultant.

“I’m extremely upset,” said board treasurer Dave Martin. “It makes no sense that we can’t get this done.”

Nasser and Elif Cetin, the project’s senior civil engineer, tried to explain why the city has been spinning its wheels in frustration for the last year.

They said that twice the city has failed to secure a contractor through the traditional bidding process. Only one company responded and the bid was rejected for failing to comply with requirements triggered by the acceptance of funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development — despite a pre-bid meeting to educate the company on bidding requirements, Cetin said.

The city’s plan B was to scrap the bidding process and award the project to a company that works on sidewalks for the city under an existing arrangement known as a job-order contract. The company has expressed reluctance to take on the job, however, because it would have to pay too much to its subcontractors, Nassar said.

The company has also asked to be paid $275,000, Nassar said — well above the $190,000 figure the city had in mind, according to budget documents.

If an agreement with the job-order contractor is beyond reach, the next option would be to use a restricted-bidder process among a list of pre-qualified companies. Budgetwise, it’s the least predictable of the three options, Nassar said.

Next month, Nassar said he will ask the City Council to approve $250,000 in additional funds for the project, $100,000 of which would come from developer impact fees. Martin said this would double the amount of such fees in the budget and developers could balk at the idea of the fees used for current projects instead of future needs.

“This is going to cause other projects in our community to suffer,” Martin said.

Nassar said costs and timelines have been difficult to predict because any changes in conditions become magnified in projects this small.

Martin also expressed frustration because the site has been overrun with weeds. He said he has been told the city’s Park and Recreation Department won’t take on maintenance duties while the project is unfinished.

“We have to go out and tell the community we’re pouring so much money into something that looks terrible,” Martin said.

The project, also known as the Ocean Beach Entryway Plan, was started in 1997 with the hiring of a consultant to develop a master plan, according to the OBCDC website. The goal, it states, was to develop an entryway on the north end of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard that “would respect the sense of place, identity and diversity of the Ocean Beach Community.”

“We’re getting into an absurd timeline,” said board president Tom Perrotti. “But that’s the bureaucracy we’re emcumbered with.”

Study direction was provided by a committee composed of key individuals from the Ocean Beach Community Development Corporation, the Ocean Beach Town Council, Ocean Beach Planning Group and the Voltaire Street Merchants. Public meetings were conducted in September 1997 and January 1998 to solicit input and direction on design options.

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