4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Why shabby Otay Park cost over $2 million

Ranger station $479 per square foot, restroom $352 per square foot

Ever wonder why public works cost taxpayers so much? Consider the case of one small project, the new Otay Valley Regional Park ranger station and restroom. Under a joint powers agreement among San Diego County, the City of Chula Vista, and the City of San Diego, local politicians have been trying to develop the park since 1990. The land dedicated to the park extends along the southern border of Chula Vista, then north to the Otay Lakes. The Otay River, which runs through the area, was the site of a great flood supposedly caused by rainmaker Charles Hatfield in 1916.

Six years ago, the park’s joint powers authority obtained a $1 million grant from the State of California to help fund the park’s growth. The money was applied to the construction of a staging area off Beyer Boulevard and new trails. The staging area, including ranger station, restroom, and parking lot, was completed in November.

Early this year, George Hanson attended the new facilities’ opening. Hanson manages the remedial writing program at UCSD and leads bird-hunting safaris to Argentina on the side. But he has worked hard to develop open-space preserves in San Diego County as well. He is currently president of the San Diego County Parks Society and is cofounder of Friends of Otay Valley Regional Park, which to date has tried to help clean up the parklands. He also serves on the Otay park’s Citizen Advisory Committee.

Hanson was disappointed in what he saw during the ranger station ribbon cutting. “It’s a dump,” he tells me. “I was walking through the ranger station, and it looked like a kid who went down to Dixieline lumber could have done a better job putting a building together. It was totally unimpressive.”

According to minutes of the February 15 Otay Valley Regional Park Citizen Advisory Committee, Hanson asked, “Would it be possible to get an accounting of the funds spent on the Beyer staging area? I attended the opening, and there was a sign that said it was a $1.7 million project, but [I] saw in the paper the next day that it was over $2 million and would like to see how these costs came to be.”

By early May, Hanson still had no answers. So on May 7, he emailed Robin Shifflet of the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department, which was managing the project for the joint powers authority (Shifflet is a joint powers authority staff member too). Hanson asked her for the square footage of the ranger station and restroom. He then noted an apparent leap in the project’s cost. “Finally — for now — I’ve seen a document,” wrote Hanson in a May 7 email, “that lists the final cost of the ranger station [complex] as $2,543,000. Comment?”

To explain the project’s costs, Shifflet cited in her return message the next day the use of industrial-grade materials, an interior sprinkler system, air conditioning and heating, and additional lighting “on all four exterior walls to reduce vandalism.” But she pleaded ignorance of the document containing the $2,543,000 final cost. Instead, Shifflet sent along a “summary of costs” sheet. The items “I have attached,” she wrote, “are the cost from the bid we received from Heffler [Company, Inc.] to do the work.”

There were 26 items in the summary of costs from Heffler, including building and pollution permits, earthwork, archaeological monitoring program, electrical, irrigation/landscaping, light poles and fixtures, and parking lot. Of particular interest to Hanson were $210,000 for “Pre-fab Restroom/storage room with fire sprinklers” and $437,100 for “Pre-fab Ranger Station with fire sprinklers.”

The total at the bottom of the Heffler summary sheet was $2,025,308. A check of San Diego City Council meeting minutes shows that this figure was within guidelines the council set for the project on August 8, 2006. During that meeting, the council stipulated that construction costs of the Beyer Boulevard staging area were not to exceed $2,175,396.

Let’s return to the document George Hanson says he saw placing the Beyer staging area cost at $2,543,000. He identified it for Robin Shifflet in a May 9 email. It’s a request to the San Diego City Council by Stacey LoMedico, director of Park and Recreation, and signed by the City’s then–chief financial officer Jay Goldstone, to transfer excess Mission Bay lease revenues to five city park projects. In listing Otay Valley Regional Park as the recipient of $25,000, the document states: “Including this proposal, the total cost of this project is $2,543,000.” The city council approved the item on January 8.

How did the cost of the Beyer staging area get this high?

The Hanson-Shifflet email trail gives clues. In his May 9 email, Hanson also asked, “Could you kindly explain the choice of Heffler…?” Three days later, Shifflet replied that Heffler’s was “the qualifying low bid for the project.”

On May 23, after a trip to South America, Hanson brought up the square footage of the buildings at the Beyer staging area. (Two weeks earlier, Shifflet had supplied the information: a 912-square-foot ranger station and 598-square-foot restroom.) “According to my arithmetic,” wrote Hanson, “one structure (the ranger station) cost $479 per square foot, and the restroom cost $352 per square foot. I talked to a general contractor who does all sorts of custom construction. He said the square-foot cost — including his profit — would be between $85 and $100 per square foot. As the two structures we are concerned with are prefab, it’s a puzzle to me as to why the cost was so great.

“Also…I see that the cost of the ‘Wet Utilities/Sewer Connection and Pump’ is listed as $82,390. This cost estimate puzzles me because the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project…declares that the sewer system is immediately available there on Beyer Boulevard.”

Hanson finished by asking for a copy of the request for proposals that was advertised for the project, “at least a summary of the other bids received and staff analysis of these,” and an explanation for “the subsequent cost overrun that resulted, an increase of approximately 25%.”

On May 27, Shifflet advised Hanson to pursue these deeper inquiries through a Public Records Act request. She even supplied him with the number of the bid that Heffler won.

But the next day, Shifflet wrote Hanson that she had “to make a correction to the method of how we hired Heffler.… In April 2006 the Park and Recreation Department requested the Contract Services Department to provide a sole source contract for the Beyer Boulevard project.… Several projects were submitted…for the use of the [$1 million grant] money but were turned down by the State. In 2005 the State agreed to the Beyer Boulevard Ranger station and trail, but the money had to be paid out by June 2007. City [and other] permits were obtained in September 2006. One of the permit conditions was that construction could not occur during the bird-breeding season. This only allowed construction to occur from September 16 to March 15. [Thus] the construction schedule…did not allow for a three month public bid process and…a sole source contract was requested and approved.”

Shifflet sent one final email to Hanson. It included an amendment to Heffler’s cost summary sheet for the Beyer staging area. The amended summary detailed how the project reached its $500,000 overrun. Perhaps many costs had been anticipated from the project’s beginning, for the summary showed that $382,639 was administrative expenses, including $215,910 to the City. But $135,053 was new construction costs. Of these, $104,536 came in two project “change orders.”

The Heffler Company, Inc., of National City, founded by contractor Patrick Heffler, has completed numerous projects for the San Diego Park and Recreation Department. The company has often gone back for “change orders,” according to the minutes of the San Diego City Council. At city council meetings, one often sees change orders approved for construction projects. After searching meeting minutes, I am unable to find approval of the change orders Heffler received for the Beyer staging area.

Costs are one thing, quality of what you pay for quite another. George Hanson tells me of a different San Diego County open-space park facility he recently visited. The Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon Visitors Center, a 3200-square-foot building near Poway, opened in November to replace a center that was burned to the ground in the 2003 Cedar Fire. “The new building has a mini theater and a number of green aspects, such as solar paneling on the roof. It’s very impressive.”

(Costs increased in the Goodan Ranch project as well. When I called Mina Nguyen, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department, she was tight-lipped about the project’s final costs. But North County Times’ reports had put the bill originally at $1.4 million, then $1.5 and $1.7 million. The most recent figure I found came from the San Diego Union-Tribune, a little over $2 million.)

Hanson says that during meetings of the Otay Valley Regional Park’s Citizen Advisory Committee, his inquiries into finances were met with less than enthusiasm. At mention of possible irregularities, he said, one member’s “whole face looked like it dropped.” In the give-and-take of the committee’s June meeting, Hanson tells me, vice chairman Kevin O’Neil admonished him that it is not the charge of members to raise such questions. It gave Hanson a new metaphor for understanding what a citizen advisory committee is. “Remember in the old days,” he asks, “those play steering wheels for kids in cars?”

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Video game music spawns new tribute genre

Gamer jazz groups, string quartets, mariachi bands
Next Article

#MeToo, from here to Africa

“So many girls out there are being molested by their own fathers, by their own cousins... It’s out of control.”

Ever wonder why public works cost taxpayers so much? Consider the case of one small project, the new Otay Valley Regional Park ranger station and restroom. Under a joint powers agreement among San Diego County, the City of Chula Vista, and the City of San Diego, local politicians have been trying to develop the park since 1990. The land dedicated to the park extends along the southern border of Chula Vista, then north to the Otay Lakes. The Otay River, which runs through the area, was the site of a great flood supposedly caused by rainmaker Charles Hatfield in 1916.

Six years ago, the park’s joint powers authority obtained a $1 million grant from the State of California to help fund the park’s growth. The money was applied to the construction of a staging area off Beyer Boulevard and new trails. The staging area, including ranger station, restroom, and parking lot, was completed in November.

Early this year, George Hanson attended the new facilities’ opening. Hanson manages the remedial writing program at UCSD and leads bird-hunting safaris to Argentina on the side. But he has worked hard to develop open-space preserves in San Diego County as well. He is currently president of the San Diego County Parks Society and is cofounder of Friends of Otay Valley Regional Park, which to date has tried to help clean up the parklands. He also serves on the Otay park’s Citizen Advisory Committee.

Hanson was disappointed in what he saw during the ranger station ribbon cutting. “It’s a dump,” he tells me. “I was walking through the ranger station, and it looked like a kid who went down to Dixieline lumber could have done a better job putting a building together. It was totally unimpressive.”

According to minutes of the February 15 Otay Valley Regional Park Citizen Advisory Committee, Hanson asked, “Would it be possible to get an accounting of the funds spent on the Beyer staging area? I attended the opening, and there was a sign that said it was a $1.7 million project, but [I] saw in the paper the next day that it was over $2 million and would like to see how these costs came to be.”

By early May, Hanson still had no answers. So on May 7, he emailed Robin Shifflet of the City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department, which was managing the project for the joint powers authority (Shifflet is a joint powers authority staff member too). Hanson asked her for the square footage of the ranger station and restroom. He then noted an apparent leap in the project’s cost. “Finally — for now — I’ve seen a document,” wrote Hanson in a May 7 email, “that lists the final cost of the ranger station [complex] as $2,543,000. Comment?”

To explain the project’s costs, Shifflet cited in her return message the next day the use of industrial-grade materials, an interior sprinkler system, air conditioning and heating, and additional lighting “on all four exterior walls to reduce vandalism.” But she pleaded ignorance of the document containing the $2,543,000 final cost. Instead, Shifflet sent along a “summary of costs” sheet. The items “I have attached,” she wrote, “are the cost from the bid we received from Heffler [Company, Inc.] to do the work.”

There were 26 items in the summary of costs from Heffler, including building and pollution permits, earthwork, archaeological monitoring program, electrical, irrigation/landscaping, light poles and fixtures, and parking lot. Of particular interest to Hanson were $210,000 for “Pre-fab Restroom/storage room with fire sprinklers” and $437,100 for “Pre-fab Ranger Station with fire sprinklers.”

The total at the bottom of the Heffler summary sheet was $2,025,308. A check of San Diego City Council meeting minutes shows that this figure was within guidelines the council set for the project on August 8, 2006. During that meeting, the council stipulated that construction costs of the Beyer Boulevard staging area were not to exceed $2,175,396.

Let’s return to the document George Hanson says he saw placing the Beyer staging area cost at $2,543,000. He identified it for Robin Shifflet in a May 9 email. It’s a request to the San Diego City Council by Stacey LoMedico, director of Park and Recreation, and signed by the City’s then–chief financial officer Jay Goldstone, to transfer excess Mission Bay lease revenues to five city park projects. In listing Otay Valley Regional Park as the recipient of $25,000, the document states: “Including this proposal, the total cost of this project is $2,543,000.” The city council approved the item on January 8.

How did the cost of the Beyer staging area get this high?

The Hanson-Shifflet email trail gives clues. In his May 9 email, Hanson also asked, “Could you kindly explain the choice of Heffler…?” Three days later, Shifflet replied that Heffler’s was “the qualifying low bid for the project.”

On May 23, after a trip to South America, Hanson brought up the square footage of the buildings at the Beyer staging area. (Two weeks earlier, Shifflet had supplied the information: a 912-square-foot ranger station and 598-square-foot restroom.) “According to my arithmetic,” wrote Hanson, “one structure (the ranger station) cost $479 per square foot, and the restroom cost $352 per square foot. I talked to a general contractor who does all sorts of custom construction. He said the square-foot cost — including his profit — would be between $85 and $100 per square foot. As the two structures we are concerned with are prefab, it’s a puzzle to me as to why the cost was so great.

“Also…I see that the cost of the ‘Wet Utilities/Sewer Connection and Pump’ is listed as $82,390. This cost estimate puzzles me because the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project…declares that the sewer system is immediately available there on Beyer Boulevard.”

Hanson finished by asking for a copy of the request for proposals that was advertised for the project, “at least a summary of the other bids received and staff analysis of these,” and an explanation for “the subsequent cost overrun that resulted, an increase of approximately 25%.”

On May 27, Shifflet advised Hanson to pursue these deeper inquiries through a Public Records Act request. She even supplied him with the number of the bid that Heffler won.

But the next day, Shifflet wrote Hanson that she had “to make a correction to the method of how we hired Heffler.… In April 2006 the Park and Recreation Department requested the Contract Services Department to provide a sole source contract for the Beyer Boulevard project.… Several projects were submitted…for the use of the [$1 million grant] money but were turned down by the State. In 2005 the State agreed to the Beyer Boulevard Ranger station and trail, but the money had to be paid out by June 2007. City [and other] permits were obtained in September 2006. One of the permit conditions was that construction could not occur during the bird-breeding season. This only allowed construction to occur from September 16 to March 15. [Thus] the construction schedule…did not allow for a three month public bid process and…a sole source contract was requested and approved.”

Shifflet sent one final email to Hanson. It included an amendment to Heffler’s cost summary sheet for the Beyer staging area. The amended summary detailed how the project reached its $500,000 overrun. Perhaps many costs had been anticipated from the project’s beginning, for the summary showed that $382,639 was administrative expenses, including $215,910 to the City. But $135,053 was new construction costs. Of these, $104,536 came in two project “change orders.”

The Heffler Company, Inc., of National City, founded by contractor Patrick Heffler, has completed numerous projects for the San Diego Park and Recreation Department. The company has often gone back for “change orders,” according to the minutes of the San Diego City Council. At city council meetings, one often sees change orders approved for construction projects. After searching meeting minutes, I am unable to find approval of the change orders Heffler received for the Beyer staging area.

Costs are one thing, quality of what you pay for quite another. George Hanson tells me of a different San Diego County open-space park facility he recently visited. The Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon Visitors Center, a 3200-square-foot building near Poway, opened in November to replace a center that was burned to the ground in the 2003 Cedar Fire. “The new building has a mini theater and a number of green aspects, such as solar paneling on the roof. It’s very impressive.”

(Costs increased in the Goodan Ranch project as well. When I called Mina Nguyen, spokeswoman for the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department, she was tight-lipped about the project’s final costs. But North County Times’ reports had put the bill originally at $1.4 million, then $1.5 and $1.7 million. The most recent figure I found came from the San Diego Union-Tribune, a little over $2 million.)

Hanson says that during meetings of the Otay Valley Regional Park’s Citizen Advisory Committee, his inquiries into finances were met with less than enthusiasm. At mention of possible irregularities, he said, one member’s “whole face looked like it dropped.” In the give-and-take of the committee’s June meeting, Hanson tells me, vice chairman Kevin O’Neil admonished him that it is not the charge of members to raise such questions. It gave Hanson a new metaphor for understanding what a citizen advisory committee is. “Remember in the old days,” he asks, “those play steering wheels for kids in cars?”

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Addams Family 2: new kooky characters gone wrong

Cousin Itt’s synthetic CG likeness owes more to Dawk than it does Feliz Silla’s hair suit.
Next Article

Baja Beach Fest: Ozuna, Karol G, Lunay, El Alfa, Dalex, Anuel AA, Farruko, Myke Towers, Balvin, Agudelo 888, Rauw Alejandro

No covid outbreaks from 16,000+ Rosarito revelers
Comments
2

we had a general contracting firm that did hard bid, fully bonded public work like that in the article for the same agencies and many more around the county. A job is bid from a set of 'plans and specs', these plans and specifications are not drawn or put together by the contractor. The contractor is told to bid only what is in the plans and specs, nothing more and nothing less. If the contractor should miss something or underestimate the cost of doing a task he must nonetheless complete the task and work per the plans and specs. The contractor wants to build the project, be done and get paid. However if there is a problem with the plans and specs, or if the contracting agency (the owner) wants something changed once the contract is signed then the extra work or if the change in scope requires extra material and labor then someone has to pay or the contractor does not have to do the work. period. so the contract states (which you would discover if you looked at one of those voluminous objects) that a change order must be signed and approved, usually prior to doing the extra work, although every contractor in the business has done change order work for which they were never compensated. so it is not the "company that has gone back for change orders" as much as it is the lack of planning or completeness of the plans and specs that has REQUIRED change orders by issued.
These "problems" come to light when the contractor actually begins the work, which is when the rubber meets the road. surely

Aug. 21, 2008

surely, a teacher of remedial english understands rubber meeting the road. and the part about your friend could build for $85-$100 per square foot, when applied to public buildings, particularly small ones is ignorance speaking. I am not familiar with Heffler, but they have been around for some time, and I have no opinion on them. There are some bad contractors out there but when a project costs more than all the planners, thinkers and administrators planned and thought it would. The location of the problem is pretty obvious and that doesn't require a change order, because it is the same old ----.

Aug. 21, 2008

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close