The City of San Diego Department of Parks & Rec dropped a “bombshell” on the La Jolla Parks & Recreation, Inc. (LJP&R) board that will affect how the community group’s signature projects must now be carried out. The City’s new regulations will apply to the LJP&R’s playground renovation plans, bocce ball court construction and installation of shade structures.
Chiefly, any new construction project must go through the Department of Public Works and be subject to the City’s implementation process and choice of contractors.
Further, should a project be considered “maintenance” and carried out by volunteers, a Right of Entry permit would be required, which typically takes 30 days to obtain.
At the LJP&R’s March 28 meeting, Parks & Rec Department district manager Marilyn Stern told the board: “The process changed about 18 months ago through the City Attorney’s office and Public Works. Together, they decided anything that has to do with construction has to go through Public Works.” Without elaborating, she said the new process was approved, but wasn’t “100 percent” as of a year ago.
“Whether the Rec Council pays for it or the City pays for it, all new construction projects are put out to bid and the City selects the contractor,” Stern added. In a noticeably quieter tone, she said that usually means the lowest bid would be selected.
LJP&R board chair Mary Coakley Munk, taken aback, said: “We want to be really clear on this ... If we raise the money for the playground renovation project, we’re not allowed to select the vendor we’d like to see carry it through? You’re telling me we have no voice in who that person is?”
Stern replied that it might be an option to have a member of the LJP&R board review the applications that come in after the City publishes a Request for Proposals and have “some input.”
Coakley Munk noted: “This is very important because as a board, if we continue working so diligently to come up with a project for our community that is desperately needed … (if we lose our input) I’m not sure how much energy or interest there would be in perusing something that’s not going to be what we feel is needed.”
Trustee Jan Harris questioned whether the changes, and trusting the City to choose the right contractor, would discourage donors.
Stern replied: “I hope not, because you could tell the donors they are still getting a new playground out of it.”
Some of the reasons the board is concerned over the new process include the additional funds that would need to be raised to cover Public Works employee time and associated permits, the additional time projects would take, and the City’s less-than-sparkling reputation for selecting a contractor based on the lowest bid. As an example, the new La Jolla Cove lifeguard tower and La Jolla Rec Center auditorium tiles installation were cited.
Originally scheduled to be completed in December 2014, unforeseen problems pushed the lifeguard tower construction back by almost a year. Issues included the City “struggling with the contractor for several months” and the fact that “the quality of the work completed by the contractor was not to our standards and a lot had to be redone,” according to former Light reports.
Additionally, the La Jolla Rec Center auditorium tiles were installed in 2017 and are now coming apart at the seams.
“This is why, we, as a board, are so opposed to the City choosing their vendors to do our projects,” Coakley Munk said.
“We paid for these tiles and we were required to use your vendor and the job is abominable. The room would be beautiful if the tiles were laid properly. We are also worried about someone tripping in there. We have been trying to get this fixed for a year and we’re really frustrated,”
Trustee Carolyn Parrish added: “It’s a perfect example of good materials and a sloppy job.”
However, with the passage of Proposition H, approved by voters in November 2016, the City Charter was amended to say the City is no longer required to take the lowest bid.
The bocce ball court, which was funded by the board to the tune of $7,000, was going to be installed by volunteers. It would be a temporary installation until the playground renovation, at which time the board would determine if there is enough demand for the court to install a permanent one. The idea came from a group of La Jolla residents who travel to Little Italy to play, and was approved in September 2017.
However, Stern explained: “Anything having to do with maintenance we can do with a Right of Entry permit, and I would have to check and see if the bocce ball court would count as maintenance because there is no existing bocce ball court. It is the construction of something brand new.”
Similarly, the board agreed to fund playground shade sails at a cost not to exceed $22,000.
Stern said: “If this is going to be a Public Works project (as it’s new construction), I don’t think it can be done by June 30, due to the timing associated with a Right of Entry permit and construction.
“If it cannot be done by June 30, it must go into the 2018-2019 budget.”
She promised an answer before the next meeting.
Stern also assured the LJP&R board that in the event the funds would need to be given to the City to pay for the projects, the funds are earmarked and will not go to anything but these projects.
All said, Parrish commented: “You’ve given us a bombshell.”
— La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. next meets 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. reviveljrc.org