Park department seeking money for recreation centers

Three recreation center projects funded by voter-approved bonds have suffered significant delays and, in some cases, costly design errors, according to Recreation and Park Department officials.

The department is seeking more than $2 million in damages from West Bay Builders, the company that performed major renovations at the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center in Oceanview.

Although the center opened this summer, its heating system still does not work and there are ongoing problems with the new landscaping, said Rhoda Parhams, planning director for the department.

Rec and Park is working with the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office to require West Bay to repair the problems and pay a financial settlement, Recreation and Park Department spokesman Elton Pon said.

West Bay Builders could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Residents in the neighborhood waited more than two years for the center to re-open, and saw more than one construction delay, neighbor Mary Harris said. Roofers had to re-roof the building after doing the work improperly the first time — a six-month setback, Harris said.

Neighbors near Upper Noe Recreation Center, which was scheduled to open Sept. 6, have also suffered roughly nine months of delays because of construction mishaps, including trouble ordering sod for the new fields, park supporter Alexandra Torre said.

The largest problem was the electrical system, which was installed but wired incorrectly, Parhams told the Recreation and Park Commission last week.

“There were clearly safety issues,” she said.

At Harvey Milk Recreation Center — still under renovation with no opening date scheduled — disabled-access points were designed incorrectly and needed to be re-designed, Parhams said. Neighbors were told the center would open this September, but are now hearing the opening could be in 2009, nearby resident Steve Medoff said.

“Had we looked at the designs ahead of time we could have caught it,” Parhams said. “We depended on the Department of Public Works to do that for us, and they didn’t.”

The Department of Public Works manages a number of construction projects for Rec and Park, and communicates with the department daily during such projects, spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.

“We have a good working relationship with them and we’ve delivered a lot of great projects for them, such as the California Academy of Sciences and Moscone Recreation Center,” Falvey said.

Some Rec and Park Commissioners were surprised by the news that these projects had significant design problems.

“We’re not designing the Transamerica Pyramid here,” Vice Chair Jim Lazarus said.

“It happens,” General Manager Yomi Agunbiade said. “We do have recourse when the work is done by a private contractor, but not when it’s done by another city department.”

Parhams said her department would add another level of design review to prevent future problems before they enter the construction phase.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

Parks in progress

Construction costs and status of three San Francisco recreation centers.

Facility, Construction cost, Status

Minnie & Lovie Ward Oceanview Recreation Center, $16.8 million, Open

Harvey Milk Recreation Center, $9.3 million, Opening Sept. 6

Upper Noe Recreation Centerand Playground,  $11.1 million, Under construction

Source: Recreation and Park Department

My story

“We anticipated the delays [at Harvey Milk Recreation Center].”

Steve Medoff, 67, Duboce Park neighbor

“They told us it would open in September, but now they’re telling us 2009. I miss having the bathroom open, and I miss the front side of the building, with the grass out front.”

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