Design flaws to bring $1.26 million into city coffers

The City is on the verge of collecting more than $1 million under a settlement agreement after architects bungled the design of Juvenile Hall, delaying its opening by up to a year.

The 150-bed, $47 million youth detention center opened in late 2006 near Laguna Hospital, replacing a smaller and outdated 1950s-era facility. It was originally budgeted as a $36 million project.

The construction effort was beset with problems, largely because designers failed to take into account special building rules that govern youth detention facilities, said Joe Cheung, construction manager for the Department of Public Works.

The Board of Supervisors has yet to sign off on the $1.26 million settlement, which was approved last week by the Land Use Committee.

Twist-turn faucets were installed instead of push-button faucets, air conditioning noises infiltrated classrooms, night lights were connected to the same switches that regulated other lights and plaster quickly cracked, Cheung said.

Design errors also led to problems with backup generators, the heating and cooling system, fire alarms, fire hydrants and structural foundations, according to Cheung and court documents.

“We would think they were a pretty good design firm,” Cheung said. “They’d done other [detention facilities] before, so I’m not too sure what happened here. It was just one thing after another.”

Many of the problems were discovered after construction was finished and testing had begun, leading to a one-year delay in the facility’s opening, Cheung said. Wiring had to be torn out and laid again from scratch, he said.

A team of San Francisco-based architectural firms, comprising The Design Partnership and Del Campo and Maru, charged $3.1 million to design the new Juvenile Hall, court documents show.

The City alleged in San Francisco Superior Court that the architects’ design errors caused $7.5 million in cost overruns, and it sought $10 million in monetary damages.

However, that figure was high-balled and it was whittled down during negotiations, according to Cheung. The money will be recovered from insurance companies, he said.

The architects’ attorney declined to discuss the lawsuit with The Examiner because the settlement agreement hasn’t been approved by the full Board of Supervisors.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

 

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