OHL USA INC, which won the latest Portrero Canyon Park grading contract from L.A. City Department of Public Works for $13,526,579 million, now says it needs an additional $3.9 million to complete the project.
At an L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks facility repair and maintenance commission task force meeting, held Wednesday in Glendale, Potrero project manager Pedro Garcia presented a $3.9 million change order to Chair Lynn Alvarez and Commissioner Joe Halper (a Palisades resident).
According to Garcia, extra excavation on the 46-acre park is needed because 1) last winter’s rain and runoff caused areas of saturated soil; 2) there is some unsuitable material at the excavation site, such as large pieces of concrete and rocks; 3) there is undocumented fill, which has been called not suitable to be built on; 4) there was illegal dumping over the years, leaving organic material that needs to be removed; 5) and it is more economical to continue to use large scrappers that go over the entire area, than pull in a backhoe to do a specific smaller area.
The result is almost a 34 percent overage of the funds allotted for grading. Garcia explained that “there was nothing in the records to indicate they’d find this kind of soil.”
Pacific Palisades Community Council Vice Chair David Card, who also sat on the Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee is well-versed with the project’s history (see below). “They bid $13.5 million and fifteen months later, they (Bureau of Engineering and the contractor) are finding out there’s water and undocumented fill?”
Deputy City Engineer Alfred L. Mata said that in order to prevent future landslides, more buttress fill was needed, and the important thing is to “have compacted soil.”
Regarding the saturated soil, the commissioners were told that when there is water on the site, the soil is not firm, and contractors have to excavate below the water. That compaction, because of the water, is projected to cost $95,151.
The cost of the still-needed excavation and cut is projected at $2,042,552. This is necessary because of the uncompacted cut and because of boulders and concrete.
Another cost, since the contractor now has to dig deeper, is the hauling of extra fill from a quarter of mile away: $700,371.
The cost for over-excavation for buttress toes is placed at $207,168.
Engineering has also included a $854,758 contingency fee, in case something else was missed. The total amount for additional excavation, hauling fill from a quarter of mile away, and compaction is $3.9 million.
Commissioner Halper said, “We’ve been asked to make a recommendation to go forward, but I don’t feel competent to do that. They’re the engineers. One of my concerns is how does this affect the funds? How does it affect the park’s completion?”
Mata said, “I can’t speak to the next phase of the project.”
Halper noted that the design of the project does not yet have an entrance [off PCH]. He had understood that a pedestrian bridge has been proposed to connect the beach to the park.
“We need public access or we’re building a private park for rim residents,” he said. The upper park will be accessible to the public through the Recreation Center.
Halper inquired if the department had started to work with Caltrans or the Coastal Commission about a bridge.
Garcia and Mata had no information about a bridge.
“Until that happens, is there an entrance off Friends Street?” Halper asked. Garcia and Mata did not know.
Alvarez said, “I concur with Joe. It is what it is – do whatever the engineer says needs to be done, but when you present this to the full committee [on October 23], we want to know where the funding is coming from and what impact it will have on other features of the park.”
Halper said, “I’d like to see a PERT (program evaluation review technique) chart, with start dates, completion dates, the cost of the elements and any interdependency going forward.”
During public comment, Card said that he would like a better explanation of the change order and wondered if the BOE had negotiated with the contractor.
“I’m worried that the Bureau of Engineering sees a big pot of money and said, ‘Let’s spend it.’”
Alvarez said, “The whole project needs to be brought before the commissioners and we need to see how the $3.9 million fits in the project.”
Lisa Cahill, Councilman Mike Bonin’s field deputy, said their office needs a more in-depth report because “this is a significant amount of money. When I gave the report to Bonin, he wanted a meeting with answers.”
(Editor’s note: The “final” grading project was put out to bid by the L.A. City Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering in April 2018 with a projected cost of $14,792,412 and closed about a month later. There were three bids: Los Angeles Engineering, Inc. bid $14,137,117; OHL USA INC bid $13,526,579; and Sukut Construction, Inc. bid $13,777,777.)
Brief Recap of Potrero Canyon Park:
* In the 1950s, houses start slipping into Potrero Canyon. The City starts filling the canyon with combustible rubbish, street sweepings, pavement removals and yard trimmings, but this action is opposed by the Huntington Palisades Property Owners Association.
* 1964: The City acquires the Canyon from Charles and Martha Patterson, using eminent domain.
* 1964-1984: More houses slide into Potrero, prompting neighbors to bring a $75 million lawsuit against the City.
* December 1984: The City purchases 14 residential properties (13 on DePauw and one on Alma Real) for $6.8 million to settle an earlier lawsuit and announces a plan to install a drainage system and create a city park. The park was supposed to be completed in five years at a cost of $3 million. An additional 33 lots were later purchased by the City.
* 1990: Drainage is complete and sub-drains are installed. Grading and compaction starts.
* 2004: Only about 35 percent complete, the project is halted because of lack of funding. The Potrero Canyon Community Advisory Committee is named by City Councilman Cindy Miscikowski, with George Wolfberg as chair.
* 2005: Slope failure occurs at 211 and 231 Alma Real. Another lawsuit is brought against the City. Through Bill Rosendahl’s senior deputy Norman Kulla, the City and the Coastal Commission agree that all lots and houses along the canyon, owned by the City, will be sold and the proceeds dedicated towards completion of the park.
* 2011: A ceremony is held, and City officials vow the park will open in 2017 at an additional cost of $30.5 million.
* 2016-2017: Dirt from Caruso’s parking garage construction on Swarthmore is taken to the Canyon to be used for fill.
* 2018: Grading resumes, landscaping will go out to bid.
* 2020: “Final” Potrero Park ribbon-cutting ceremony.