City College of San Francisco officials say they can’t afford the contract for design of a planned Chinatown and North Beach campus that has ballooned in cost after nearly a decade of planning and construction.
Architects and college officials cite different reasons for the overruns. Although first signed eight years ago at a price tag of just $4.19 million, location changes, plan revisions, a college corruption case, alleged design snags and a multitude of delays have conspired to increase the contract’s cost to $14.7 million.
The project consists of two buildings near Montgomery and Washington streets, one with four stories and the other 14 stories. The campus is scheduled to open next year.
The latest billing dispute arose in March, when the architects requested almost $850,000 more. College officials said they brought the price hike down to about $385,000 through negotiations.
A spokesman for the architectural joint venture EHDD/Barcelon & Jang declined to discuss the contract in detail but attributed the price hikes to multiple delays.
“The schedule changed by more than a year and we needed to be compensated for it,” project manager Andy Sohn said of the latest cost overrun. “It was out of our control.”
But college officials call the price increases excessive.
“The board spoke clearly that they believe the college paid an adequate amount of money to EHDD and expects them to complete the project on that amount,” Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Peter Goldstein said. “I share that opinion.”
At a March board meeting, members of the college’s Board of Trustees questioned the architects’ right to ask for more money and said the contract required the joint venture to complete the job for one lump sum.
“That’s why we have contracts, to manage risk,” Trustee Steve Ngo complained at the meeting. “But for you to come back and allude to the possibility that you will shut down the project, that’s a problem. I don’t respect that tone or treatment of a public institution that you will hold the Chinatown project hostage to get money.”
Yet the contract clearly states changes can be made to the architect’s compensation for any of eight circumstances — including significant changes to the project’s size, quality, complexity or physical dimensions.
And there have been many such changes during this development’s troubled life.
In 2002, the board awarded the joint venture a contract for architectural and engineering services. When the contract was signed, the college expected to pay $4.19 million for all work on the project. But after initial delays, that number grew to $6.4 million by 2006.
And while the project’s original completion date was 2007, groundbreaking did not occur until 2008.
A variety of issues contributed to the delay.
One set of delays stemmed from two separate lawsuits seeking to stop the college from building a high-rise campus.
Still another delay was attributed to a failed land swap between the college and The City. Collapse of that deal forced the college to completely relocate the proposed campus, from the corner of Kearny and Jackson streets to the intersection of Montgomery and Washington streets.
The project also was delayed due to revelations resulting from a state investigation into unrelated college corruption allegations. Although building construction had already been put out to bid, investigators discovered that state officials had not reviewed the plans, as legally required. After that review was performed, the construction contract had to be rebid in 2008.
In total, the architects have asked for 13 separate contract modifications.
The many increases in the price of the architecture have tracked an increase in the overall price of construction. The 2006 contract envisioned an $80 million construction budget. To date, the total cost has surged to $140 million, which is to be funded by two voter-approved bonds.
College Board of Trustees President John Rizzo said the cost overruns also stemmed from errors by the architects, arguing that the contractors should absorb the costs.
“They’re saying they had to meet for architectural errors,” Rizzo said. “The last meeting talked about stairways, plans that could not be built in three-dimensional states, and they had to do it again. That concerns me. … $385,000 is a lot of meetings.”
The contract also states that payment does not mean work is satisfactory and that unsatisfactory work must be replaced by the firm “without delay.”
Whatever the case, officials say funds are running low.
“We’re out of money,” Rizzo said, expressing uncertainty about making the requested payments.
Although the college hasn’t had to modify its plans to compensate the architects, he said that’s a possibility if the architectural firm keeps submitting requests for additional payment.
The project is currently scheduled to be completed in April 2012. College officials say it is on track.
One major source of delay on the Chinatown and North Beach campus was the unrelated prosecution of three City College of San Francisco administrators for allegedly diverting college funds to political campaign committees for two state educational measures.
During an investigation into the situation, state officials discovered that plans for the Chinatown campus were not approved by state architects before the construction contract was put out to bid. That caused the project to grind to a halt until the plans met state approval.
The three now-former administrators are scheduled to appear in court in October for a preliminary hearing
Former Chancellor Philip Day Jr. faces charges on misuse of public funds and illegal campaign contributions. He is charged with one count each of conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds, concealing an account of public money, grand theft, one count of making a political contribution in the name of another, one count of using City College funds to support a political campaign and three counts of using City College funds to support a different political campaign.
Former Associate Vice Chancellor Peter Sherman faces one count of conspiracy, one count of misappropriation of public funds, one count of concealing an account of public money, one count of grand theft, one count of making a political contribution in the name of another, and three counts of using City College funds to support a political campaign.
And Associate Vice Chancellor James Blomquist is charged with making political contributions in the name of another and using college funds to support a political campaign, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
All three will appear in court Oct. 11 for a preliminary hearing.
— Andrea Koskey
City College of San Franciso’s Chinatown and North Beach campus project will be unaffected by the drastic budget cuts City College expects to make, according to Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Peter Goldstein.
The college must make up to $22 million in cuts for the next fiscal year. Proposals under consideration include cutting up to 800 classes and consolidating satellite campuses.
Goldstein said when the new campus is completed, many satellite campuses around Chinatown and North Beach will naturally move to the new building.
— Andrea Koskey
Construction timeline for the Chinatown/North Beach Campus:
1997 Ballot measure for money to purchase land to build campus approved
2002 Contract awarded to EHDD/Barcelon and Jang for design of campus
2008 Lawsuit on height of building settled
2008 Construction begins
2009 Construction halted for state review of construction plans
2012 Expected completion year