City making big improvements in delivery of capital projects

For more than 100 years, the Department of Public Works has been designing and managing the construction of public facilities that now define San Francisco as a world-class city. In 1915, we built City Hall in just over two years, and after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake we retrofit and strengthened this national landmark. More recently, DPW managed the construction of the world-renowned California Academy of Sciences, and we are currently modernizing 19 branch libraries as part of the largest building campaign in San Francisco Public Library history. We have worked on hundreds of capital projects, large and small, including those you don’t see every day — the ones keeping our infrastructure safe and our city moving.

Our ultimate client is the San Francisco taxpayer, resident, merchant or visitor. We are making significant improvements in the way we deliver these services to you by making projects more efficient and the bidding environment more competitive.

First, we now invest in strategic preplanning of general obligation bond programs. This means that by the time you see a measure on the ballot, you can be assured that The City has thoroughly analyzed the project, developed the most cost-effective way to build it, and is ready to act — thus eliminating guesswork and unforeseen conditions and allowing us to deliver exactly what voters expect.

For instance, the rebuild of General Hospital was approved not more than a year ago, but began earlier this month, and initial contract prices are at or below original estimates. Preplanning now occurs as a matter of course through The City’s comprehensive 10-year capital plan, a plan that thoughtfully, strategically and objectively lays out how we will spend our scarce capital dollars to improve The City and keep its residents safe.

Second, when we go to build, we are seeing the benefits of improvements made by The City’s Construction Contracting Task Force, which has streamlined and tightened our contracting procedures. We’ve made the rules for bidding on work and delivering projects clearer, while improving our oversight and ensuring the highest levels of accountability. In the last two years, the number of bidders per project has increased and the average bid for projects has dropped relative to the estimated cost. We are increasing competition and saving taxpayer dollars.

Third, DPW has been improving its services through a recently adopted three-year strategic plan that focuses on improving our project and service delivery models; we are currently seeking a national accreditation from the American Public Works Association through which we are improving our standard operating procedures and every aspect of our service; and the department has more than doubled the number of its professionals who have received their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accreditation from the internationally recognized U.S. Green Building Council.

We are committed to making San Francisco a more beautiful, livable and sustainable city with the utmost in transparency and accountability.

Ed Reiskin is the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works and a member of The City’s Capital Planning Committee.

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