Ailing roofs may pose health risks

Poorly maintained restrooms, indoor pools, recreation centers and other park facilities in The City are health and safety hazards, according to a lead foreman in the Recreation and Park Department.

At least 50 structures require re-roofing and a staffing shortage has the department completing less than 60 percent of monthly requested work orders for roof maintenance, Rob Rowland, a chief roofer with the department’s structural maintenance division, said in a letter to the Board of Supervisors.

The letter was sent to the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee last month as it was deliberating Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed $6.5 billion budget. Rowland provided supervisors with a list of 50 facilities in need of a new roof, with projects totaling $3.4 million.

But Yomi Agunbiade, general manager for the Recreation and Park Department, countered Rowland’s concerns by saying that there is nothing new in the letter and also explained that Rowland should not have lobbied city officials using the department’s resources.

Agunbiade said that Rowland’s letter uses words to “scare” people, but never actually says there is a current threat to people using the facilities.

“Are their roofs that need work out there? Absolutely. But if you don’t have the money, you keep the roofs running with what you have,” he said.

Agunbiade added that the department has more than $1 billion in unmet maintenance needs and “the department doesn’t have enough staff in many of our lined divisions.”

In February, voters approved a $185 million bond to help fund park maintenance.

Rowland told The Examiner that poor roof conditions lead to quicker deterioration of the building’s overall conditions, resulting in higher costs in the future. He also said thatroofs in need or repairs can result in water infestation into the building that causes dry rot, weakening the structure or causing mold to grow. Mold can cause a variety of health problems, such as asthma.

Rose Dennis of the Recreation and Park Department characterized the letter as “[Rowland’s] perception.” She said that “the department is going to prioritize health and safety hazards first and loss of property prevention.”

In the letter, Rowland asks the committee to support the funding of two additional roofers. The committee did not approve the two positions. Such letters are unusual, as lower level managers commonly take such concerns to their superiors.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who sits on the board’s budget committee and is one of the most outspoken advocate of spending more on capital needs, agreed with Rowland’s assessment about roof conditions.

“I have no doubt he is right.” Elsbernd said, “Of course it’s a concern. Is it a surprise? Rec and Park has over a billion dollars in capital need. We are doing all we can with the dollars to address it.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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