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City of San Diego puts hooks into La Jolla basket project

The city of San Diego has taken control of efforts to get bids for new hanging baskets in the Village of La Jolla.

Previously, only one bidder, Helix Environmental Construction Group Inc., had submitted a proposal to replace old wire baskets with 122 new plastic ones and maintain them for a year at an estimated cost of $375 per pot.

“We did not get any guidelines from the city on qualifications of bidders, only that they needed to fill out vendor applications,” said Glen Rasmussen, who heads the La Jolla Streetscape Committee, a joint committee of Promote La Jolla and the La Jolla Town Council, at the March 22 meeting. “We talked to four (companies) and only got one (bid).”

Rasmussen also serves on the Promote La Jolla board and as an adviser to the La Jolla Business Improvement District, which will be funding the basket project.

After the four advisers recommended that Helix be given the contract, city purchasing agent Frank Moreno told Rasmussen that one bid was insufficient and that the process would have to be redone, with the city assuming charge of it.

“We have to get the specifications from the community, and then city purchasing will put that out to bid,” said Alicia Martinez-Higgs with the city Planning and Community Investment Department.

Martinez-Higgs said bidding on plant baskets shouldn’t be a long process.

“The bid has to be let for 10 days,” she said. “Hopefully, once we have that (bid) list from purchasing, we’ll be able to make that decision within the week.”

Streetscape committee member Egon Kafka, who had objected to the sole bid and claimed it was “procedurally wacky” and costly, has since rounded up a new field of six bidders for the hanging basket project. Those bidders are: Brickman Group, one of the nation’s largest private landscapers; the Urban Corps, which has cleaned Village streets; McCullough Landscaping of La Jolla; BDG California; Brewer Lawn Maintenance; and Aztec Landscaping.

Rasmussen said Helix has resubmitted its bid and that another bid has also been received from Russell Ramsey of La Jolla Gardens, who previously maintained the hanging flowerpots.

“All of them (bidders) have agreed to provide the pots and the materials to fill them at cost, instead of marking them up,” said Kafka, noting that the new plastic pots will save about 85 percent of the water, even with a drain hole in the bottom. “We’re working on a plan now to keep the drilled pots plugged for ultimate water savings,” he said.

Kafka added that whoever gets the contract to maintain the hanging baskets will probably have to water them every week in summer and every other week in winter.

Rasmussen said he’s looking forward to a successful bidding process and getting the new hanging baskets up.

“We’re willing to work with the city to get this done,” he said. “We all want the same thing: to have water-efficient, beautiful baskets. We think this is a good thing for the merchants, to have a nice-looking streetscape.”