By Ashley Mackin
On June 20, Mary Coakley-Munk and Friends of La Jolla Shores filed a lawsuit against contractors T.B Penick and Sons, and Lithocrete supplier Shaw and Sons, for damages resulting from the deteriorating Map at Kellogg Park. The plaintiffs say the educational art installation depicting the ocean canyons off La Jolla Shores, and located at the corner of Camino Del Oro and Vallecitos, began crumbling in 2012.
Friends of La Jolla Shores allege T.B. Penick, the group hired to construct The Map, made claims about its durability and longevity, but The Map has come apart on two separate occasions during the past five years and T.B. Penick has refused to repair it.
T.B. Penick, however, said the lawsuit comes as a surprise. T.B. Penick Vice President Dave Golia, said the first course of action will be to “figure out what the specific, latest contentions are so we know what we’re responding to. At this point, our intention is to resolve the matter in a reasonable and amicable way.”
The purpose of The Map was laid out at the June 20 press conference by Friends of La Jolla Shores member Catherine Douglass.
“The Map was designed to create a beautiful, educational and scientifically accurate illustration of the topography of the deep water canyons, the location of the marine reserves, dive sites and points of interest, and to showcase the indigenous species,” Douglass told the assemblage.
The Map has areas of increasingly deeper shades of crushed blue glass covered in a laminating product called Lithocrete to show depth, and over 300 two-dimensional, bronze, life-sized replicas of the native species.
The suit states that T.B. Penick said Lithocrete would be “ideal” and “perfect” to cover the surface of The Map because it would permanently hold the fragments of glass in place without delaminating or breaking. The suit also claims T.B. Penick promised “A Lithocrete sealer would ‘permanently ensure the structural integrity’ of the surface, which would then require ‘minimum maintenance’ with ‘almost no maintenance costs.’ ”
Douglass said of these claims, “We are sad and we are mad. We should not be looking at a pockmarked, crumbling surface littered with loose glass. The Map is not safe; it is not attractive, durable, stable or low-mainte- nance,” as she said was also promised by T.B. Penick.
Friends of La Jolla Shores member Bill Lerach told
La Jolla Light
that after The Map’s official opening in September 2008, it started to crumble and the area had to be closed off by the city in late 2009. T.B. Penick repaired The Map in April 2010, but it started deteriorating a second time. In fall of 2012, the city closed the area, calling it a “safety hazard.”
“The lawsuit seeks damages to compensate the people for the money that was lost in the project — which is well over half-a- million dollars — the cost of replacement, which could also be a half-a-million dollars, and punitive damages as well, because other Penick projects have failed and they concealed that from the people who raised money for this project,” Lerach said.
At the press conference, Friends of La Jolla Shores members and local government representatives, including Mayor Bob Filner, showed their support for the suit and the project itself.
Stating her love of the project in its intended state, former County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said, “What has happened is a travesty. Only five years (after The Map’s installation), it is in disrepair and in fact is a hazard. ... As far as I’m concerned, T.B. Penick is guilty of fraud against the taxpayers.”
Mayor Filner was on hand because the project was funded by private donations, and once completed, donated to the City of San Diego.
“You can be in tears when you look at this, right? It’s such a tragedy that something whose idea and initial execution was so powerful and so beautiful and so important and, whatever the reason, incompetence or whatever, it turns out to be ugly,” he said. “We need to change it. We need to make sure this is fixed.”
He added, “It’s terrible that we have to sue, nobody wants to do that, and yet, we have to do it.”
Friends of La Jolla Shores said the lawsuit follows T.B. Penick’s refusal — after multiple requests — to repair The Map again or reimburse the Friends of La Jolla Shores so it may use another contractor.
With the team of lawyers working on behalf of Friends of La Jolla Shores, Douglass said, “Together we will fight and together we will win.”
Hoping the matter does not have to go to court, Golia, on behalf of Byron Klemaske, a division leader for T.B. Penick, told La Jolla Light, “We want to be part of the solution not part of the problem.”He said they won’t have additional information “until we research more of what is happening and how we can best deal with the issues and try to resolve them.”
Golia said T.B. Penick met with Coakley-Munk in February to discuss solution alternatives and possible remedies to her concerns with The Map’s condition (Golia said he couldn’t disclose what those solutions were). He said T.B. Penick then received an e-mail from Coakley-Munk indicating she would discuss the options provided and get back to him in April. The next T.B. Penick heard, he said, the lawsuit had been filed. Coakley-Munk said at another time their offer “wasn’t really helpful.”
Addressing how or why the “permanent” Lithocrete may have crumbled, Golia said maintenance is an issue they would have to investigate.
He said in June 2010, Coakley-Munk bought a three-page manual on how to maintain the project. “The warranty was based on (proper management) and there were some pretty specific things that had to be done because this is a project that needs to be addressed, you can’t just ignore it,” he said.
Unable to comment on any other details, Golia said T.B. Penick would keep
La Jolla Light
updated as their investigation develops.