City to cut red tape, speed pay for contractors 

As San Francisco officials prepare to embark on a $15 billion capital improvement program, changes to The City’s construction contracting process were approved by Mayor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday to encourage more competitive bids and simplify procedures that City Attorney Dennis Herrera conceded were "Byzantine."

The changes approved by Newsom were recommendations from a task force, led by Herrera, charged with looking at ways to make city construction projects more attractive to quality contractors and more efficiently administer public contracts.

Contractors often don’t bid on city projects because of such drawbacks as a slow payment process or confusion about incentives given to small and minority-owned businesses, City Controller Ed Harrington said after a forum Tuesday about San Francisco’s 10-year Capital Planning Program, given before the nonprofit San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

"People don’t go out to bid because they don’t know when they’re going to get paid by The City," Harrington said.

The changes come as San Francisco prepares to embark on a 10-year capital improvement plan that proposes to invest $15.7 billion in the next decade, starting this summer.

The contract process reforms will result in "a greater return on The City’s capital investments," Newsom said in a press statement.

The City’s chief librarian, Luis Herrera, said changes to the construction contract process would reduce construction costs that have resulted in the postponement of five branch renovations out of 19 promised in a $106,000,000 bond measure approved by voters in 2000.

Oren Sellstrom, the associate director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, applauded the proposed changes, but he was skeptical that they would be implemented.

Changes approved by Newsom include new procedures to ensure that payments due contractors are made in "as timely a manner as possible"; the development of project procedures to "ensure the consistent implementation of contracts within and across departments"; a review of The City’s specification and contract requirements to "simplify and streamline contract administration"; the further development of hiring programs; and a review of programs that promote local and minority-owned businesses to "promote program objectives, minimize administrative burdens and evaluate the costs."

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