A plaza is planned over the future Chinatown station on the Central Subway line. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Rooftop park the latest point of conflict between Muni and Central Subway contractor

Bills, bills, bills.

They’re a common household headache, but on the $1.6 billion Central Subway project, they are also the source of acrimony between the construction contractor and San Francisco.

The number of “change orders,” or disagreements between San Francisco and construction contractor Tutor Perini Corp. on particular project costs is now topping 1,053, according to the latest independent audit.

That audit, performed by the Project Management Oversight Committee, was published in November.

And on Tuesday, those disagreements even spilled over into an otherwise routine funding approval for a rooftop park at the Chinatown Rose Pak Central Subway station.

The park will bring much-needed greenery to one of San Francisco’s most densely-packed neighborhoods, advocates say.

But the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Tutor Perini also can’t agree on the bill.

The SFMTA Board of Directors approved $9.3 million for the rooftop plaza, which was planned in 2013 when a proposal for housing above the Chinatown station on Stockton Street fell through.

One portion of the work billed at $5.1 million is not under contention. But another portion of the work was estimated by Tutor Perini to cost roughly $6.9 million, according to an SFMTA staff report.

By contrast, SFMTA engineers estimated that work to cost roughly $4.2 million, an estimate that was approved Tuesday by the SFMTA board.

While that disagreement may rankle some, Chinatown neighbors will still be grateful for the park, said Malcolm Yeung, deputy director of the Chinatown Community Development Center, an influential neighborhood nonprofit.

The concept for that rooftop park came from Gordon Chin, a longtime Chinatown activist and CCDC founder, Yeung said.

“In a community where 60 percent of our residents live in eight-by-eight square foot boxes, open space is essential to mental and physical health,” he said.

The difference in the park’s project cost estimates mainly boiled down to one disagreement: time.

A breakdown of costs and labor hours by SFMTA and Tutor Perini shows the contractor believes it will need 5,000 hours to put up structural slabs for the park, versus 3,000 hours estimated by SFMTA, and that it needs 11,000 hours to put up bulk heads, column beams and walls, versus 7,000 hours estimated by SFMTA.

And on, and on, and on.

Mostly, Tutor Perini believes it needs more time than SFMTA has estimated.

While the cost disagreement over the rooftop park may be a small portion of the overall project cost, it’s far from the final disagreement.

While 415 change orders have been “voided,” according to the independent audit, the remaining change orders combined with existing increased project costs may total $53.4 million in additional costs for Central Subway construction.

On that last point, SFMTA Acting Director Tom Maguire told the SFMTA board that staff would present on those conflicts in the coming months.

“It’s still our intention to bring this board the estimate of the final contract,” for the Central Subway project, Maguire said. “So once and for all we’ll know how much more we’ll need” to pay for it.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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