New Mitchell Park library slips further behind Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jan 25, 2013 at 10:14 am
Already more than a year behind schedule, the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center will be even later than that, a city official said. Originally set for completion in April 2012, the new estimated completion date will be sometime after May of this year, said Phil Bobel, assistant director of public works.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 25, 2013, 9:41 AM
Posted by A, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 10:30 am
The city should learn to put incentives in its contracts for on-time completion.
Aside from that, Is there anyone in the city keeping tabs on this project on a day-by-day or even weekly basis? Living nearby, I could see that most days very little was happening at this site. The same is true for the Fairmeadow Elementary project. I have a feeling nobody from city hall gets over to South Palo Alto to see what's going on.
Posted by Civics 101, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 11:18 am
Ummm. Fairmeadow Elementary School is a Palo Alto Unified School District project. The City of Palo Alto is a completely different governmental agency and has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Every citizen in a democracy should understand the basic organizational stucture of government and its agencies. That is Civics 101. Increasingly, I hear people say things that reflect deep ignorance of how our government works.
Effective democratic government DEPENDS the participation of active INFORMED citizens. The biggest threat to democracy is reactive, uninformed masses of people. Let's all make it a goal to educate ourselves on high school level civics--and keep democracy alive.
The delays to the library schedule are disappointing. Seems like there are management issues with the city and with the contractor on this one. This is a City of Palo Alto Public Works project. Submit concerns to City Council here email@example.com
Kvetching on a blog is a waste of time. Speak to your elected representatives who can actually effect change.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 11:25 am
One would hope the inspections are being down with a fine tooth comb. The project should be done correctly - it should last a long time.
This appears to be such a high profile project that I am surprised a LOT of City officials, council members, etc. are not reviewing it frequently, including stopping by. Someone posted about a lack of action at the site at times - while I don't live nearby, I have driven by and recall noticing no work was occurring.
If there are problems working with this general contractor, I recommend the City logs this info in a database of vendors/contractors the City will never work with again on ANY project (...pipe dream, but a good idea)
Posted by Minority View, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 11:30 am
I agree with "What Do You Know", except I would say "Ministry of Truth ugly" is more descriptive than "eyesore ugly".
On bright side, thoughtful Palo Altans may look upon this monstrous "library and community center", compare it to the beauty and proportions of older civic structures, and finally realize its symbolism as the inevitable result of giving Big Government more and more money and power and expecting it to be used wisely.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 11:31 am
Everyone who has every been involved in a development project of any kind knows that “projects go bad one day at a time”. There are probably an infinite number of reasons why projects go bad, but the reasons for each failing project are generally known to the project manager. It is his job to keep all of the balls in the air, and to make certain that he has the resources to get the project done, and that these resources are used appropriately.
Large Capital Projects Need Auditors
Projects are all thousands of inter-related details. Well-run projects—particularly construction projects—need constant inspections, and the better-run projects receive constant management reviews. The reviews add a certain amount of cost to the project, but if not conducted, the costs to correct the failures will become significant—even resulting in legal action in the future.
Mitchell Park Library Project And The Office Of The Auditor
The Mitchell Park Library/Community Center Project offers a very special challenge for the Office of the Auditor. This project will easily end up being over a year late, and possibly over budget--although there was a hefty “contingency” line item in the building’s budget, so it’s possible that it won’t actually exceed the bond authorization.
There are so many issues associated with this matter, where does one start?
The public has been told that there were issues with the building’s specifications (such as “a need for more steel” [or some such])—requiring various delays and cost increases in the construction of that building. Whatever the real reason(s), it’s clear that there was inadequate plan checking going on at various stages of the project by: 1) the City, 2) the City’s architects, and 3) the contractors responding to the bid. If the building was months into construction before a significant flaw in the plans was discovered—what processes did the various players have in effect to ensure that their work was correct, and the building could be built with the plans (bill of materials) generated by the design process?
From the point-of-view of a City Auditor, it seems to me that the Auditor should have the obligation to review the processes that the City used to design, approve, and monitor the project. It is difficult to believe that the execution of this project represents that “state of the art in project management. The Office of the Auditor should review this project, and make its observations known to the public, as quickly as possible.
It is easy to recognize that virtually everything that any organization does can be seen in terms of “project”, and all of these projects fall under the umbrella of “project management”. The following are suggested for people not all that familiar with the topic--
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 11:35 am
I am a Palo Alto resident and work for the Art Center. To the person who said "Considering that the city doesn't complete ANY construction projects on time, it's premature to blame the contractors", I would like to say that the Palo Alto Art Center renovation was completed on-time, on-budget and the contractor, Nova Partners, did a wonderful job.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 12:00 pm
To: Civics 101
While you are correct that the PAUSD is a separate government agency from the City of Palo Alto government, it does not operate totally in a vacuum—at least where there are overlaps between the authority/needs of other agencies.
For instance—it’s difficult to believe that the PAUSD can build any building it wants without some sort of approval from various City agencies—such as the Utility, P/W, and the Fire Department.
One of the areas of overlap that exists (elsewhere in the state) is that of having school districts operate police departments which can operate not only on school district property, but also off the school district property—creating problems for the police agencies that are charged with law enforcement throughout the municipal jurisdiction (often at the county level). These police departments generally report to the elected school district officials—who often have no idea what their officers are doing “off the reservation” and do not communicate with the public when problems arise--leavning these school district police departments to become "rogue".
The Ed Code is over 13,000 pages long. Very few people have read it, so very few people have any idea what’s in it. It’s a shame that our elected officials are not required to have some knowledge of the State/Municipal Codes and the Ed Codes, before that can run for office (these codes are all on-line, by the way).
Posted by Sylvia, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 12:25 pm
This additional delay is very disappointing. I often drive by the new library construction project and sigh when I see how far from completion it is.
It appears the wrong contractor was hired for this work. And, speaking as an employee of a company that IS a sub-contractor, I am aware of how many general contractors get low-ball sub bids to maximize their profits. They sometimes present the bid of the qualified sub to the client and then actually award the work to the cheapest bid they have. We ended up with a job in San Francisco when the city caught the general not actually using the sub bid that was part of their bid package. It was a major brouhaha that was resolved in an all-hands meeting in the city Public Works conference room in which that contractor was humiliated by officials for their cheating. And our company ended up doing the work.
@What Do you Know, the fact that your particular children don't frequent the public libraries cannot be extrapolated as an argument for or against a new library.
Posted by JS, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm
The aspect that is amazing in this situation that the City has hired a Construction Management firm (Turner) to oversee management of the design/construction process and is paying Turner an amount approximately equal to what they are paying the general contractor, Flintco. What is Turner's share of culpability in this apparent mess.
Clearly, this project is beyond the capabilities of all parties involved. This kind of result sure doesn't engender confidence in Palo Alto's ability to tackle these kinds of projects. Construction started on this project in approximately August of 2010. They are now in month 28 with at least another 4 months before completion is projected. Seriously, 32 months to construct a 40,000 sf building is totally ridiculous. ALL parties involved should be called on the carpet.
Posted by Paly parent, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm
My high school kids don't visit the City libraries either - there are plenty of books at the PALY libraries and we own a Kindle that the whole family can use. I use the library a lot, but I seldom browse, I usually reserve books online.
I actually kind of like the design of the library though I would not have chosen the blue siding. I still find it truly wasteful that we have the Downtown and College Terace branches. A wast of human and other resources...
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 1:32 pm
Classic government incompetence and a misguided project from the start. Given that all content is moving on-line, why do we need 5 libraries in town? This library will be a dinosaur the day it opens - could have spent the $40M on a new public safety building instead
Posted by Someonewithconstructionexperience, a resident of Stanford, on Jan 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Every project has three distinct parts. Owner - Designers - Contractors. It takes ALL three to get the job done. It is easy to jump on the band wagon and blame one party for the entire project being late when there are in fact hundreds and sometimes thousands of parties involved. A winning team sometimes has to support its weaker parts and carry them to the finish line. I am sure each of the parties has their own shortcomings in this project and every project.
If timely completion was a necessity it would have been easy to prop up the general/subcontractors (issues) and get the job done. Obviously that wasn't the case. The true costs you won't see is the amount of legal fees all of the parties spend if they continue down the current path. A sum we will all be responsible for.
Thanks for the oversight Turner. You have done such a great job being a CM on this project (sarcastic tone).
Posted by Mom, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jan 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm
They should have just asked Mountain View who built their fabulous library. Their library has a top-of-the-line, check-out-check-in system. A conveyor belt takes the book and checks it in. To check out books, just stack them up on the table - done in a split second!
Posted by Nell, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm
I can't believe the elitism in some of these posts "My kids didn't need the library so why should anyone else's?" Believe it or not, there are people in Palo Alto who can't afford Kindles and ebooks and still rely on public libraries. Also, this project is more than a library, it is also a community center. Will you also claim that nobody needs a community center because your kids have Facebook accounts?
The construction was part of an intense competition in New York for the title of "world's tallest building". Two other projects fighting for the title, 40 Wall Street and the Chrysler Building, were still under construction when work began on the Empire State Building. Each held the title for less than a year, as the Empire State Building surpassed them upon its completion, just 410 days after construction commenced. The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Instead of taking 18 months as anticipated, the construction took just under fifteen. Due to reduced costs during the Depression, the final costs totaled only $24.7 million (372.8 million 2012 dollars) instead of the estimated $43 million.
What’s interesting is that the current-dollar cost of the ESB is, at $370M, only 9x what the City of Palo Alto originally committed to this library—all with the approval of the City Council!
Oh, well .. it’s all OPM (Other People’s Money) .. so what the hay ..
Posted by Leo, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm
As a library commissioner, I received an update on the Mitchell Park project just last night. After reading through these comments, I can say that many of them are misguided. I, too, am frustrated that the Mitchell Park library is delayed, but I know it will be an amazing community space once it opens later this year.
Let me clear up some facts:
1) FACT: The Mitchell Park building cost is still significantly below the engineer's estimate
2) FACT: The MItchell Park building is a very complex project due to the many energy-efficient systems, data wiring, and power needs. Hard to compare this to a "big-box" space built for retail.
3) FACT: The city is assessing penalties for the project's delay (currently around $250,000)
4) FACT: The Main Library renovation will have a different construction manager and contractor.
5) FACT: The delay is partly caused by cheap subcontractors who had to redo work that did not pass inspections.
6) FACT: The city council, library bond oversight committee, and library commission are all aware of and frustrated with the delays.
Are we supposed to go out there and pick up a hammer to finish the job ourselves? I trust that the city's employees are doing their jobs well and I can see their frustration in getting cooperation with the contractor.
Posted by who cares, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm
Low bid, city management incompetence, outsourcing of project responsibility, lack of city senior management oversight, and the list continues......The problem is we have management staff working for the city who are ill equipped for those tasks assigned to them due to lack of education and/or knowledge of what is required in their specific job description. The city manager and city council need to be held accountable for senior management staff's inability to complete assigned tasks in a timely and cost efficient manner. Have to laugh that The Weekly called Phil Bobel one of the "movers and shakers" in city staff in a recent article. I guess "movers and shakers" now is defined by the Weekly as placing blame onto others for one's own inabilities as a manager.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 3:08 pm
Time flies by, but my recollection is that in addition to the Mountain View city library mentioned above as a success, there are other regional reno's/complete rebuilds of city libraries that concluded happily. The Santa Clara Main Library and Cupertino Main Library were also reasonably prompt and successful projects - both of the latter ones are sizeable, major buildings.
What is the difference here - this project may be slightly larger, so is THAT the difficulty?
Posted by Bob , a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 4:17 pm
And Phil Bobel is evidently involved in the Bybee Park dispute - and the proposed garbage factory in the Baylands. City Council should take a hard look at his credentials and everyone else's credentials in the Planning Department....especially after the Arrillaga fiasco. Then all the registered voters should also take a hard look at the City Council's credentials and 'ties'.
Spring is supposed to be the time for 'house cleaning'.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm
And wait for it, Main Library will have the same type of renovation.
Many of us didn't want this huge library project, just a simple single library, but Oh No we had to have the most hugest, stupendous, ugliest library on the Peninsula. Can we please have our small library back, before we all get Kindles.
Posted by Barron Parker, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm
It's evident that the city will need to do a Post Mortem (PM) report on the things that went wrong, the steps that were taken to fix the problems, and suggestions for avoiding those (or similar) mistakes in the future.
Before it is produced, the question I would ask is whether management will allow staff to write an honest PM, or if it will be filtered by a cover-your-ass mentality. Unfortunately, I'd expect the latter.
Posted by JS, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 5:46 pm
Dear Leo, Thank you for all of the FACTS. So we have a system that the City endorses that allows for 1 year project overruns, cheap subcontractors, incorrect work to be installed, no coordination of work by the general contractor and little recourse by the City. Yes, I acknowledge that the project leaders are frustrated and will pursue a claim against the contractor. It still sounds like a very poor procurement system. No pre-qualification of contractors built into the process? Where is Turner???
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 6:52 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] The JCC went through all the reviews and the like. Get over it. The JCC, one of the best buildings ever built in this city. Find another target--- funny how no one ever mentions the Cheesecake Factory on University avenue as an eyesore!
Posted by dreamer, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm
Nice try 'not an issue', I'm not a chronic whiner, first time I have posted in about 9 months. Nor am I a nimby, wrong again. I just forgot JCC is a sacred cow. Problem is that it is not possible for some to have a discussion without making it personal - and this is a perfect example of that. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Not an issue, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm
Why bring up the JCC in a discussion of the library? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Why not mention alma plaza or the homes in professorville or the eichlers in town if you want to talk about eyesores or do you think that the JCC is the only "eyesore" in town.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm
Yes, we have a lot of eyesores in town built in the last 10 years or so. In fact, the only building that is reasonable is the new gym on Fabian where Palo Alto Joes or Kikis used to be. Why can't we have more buildings like that?
Never thought that I would say a gym is a nice building, but it depends on what it is compared with.
o) San Antonio's Bexar County will open entirely bookless
library this fall
o) 'BiblioTech' will feature 165 e-readers users can check out
San Antonio’s Bexar County will soon have an answer for a generation of readers more comfortable in front of a computer screen than a printed page: a library full of PCs, laptops, tablets, e-readers -- and not one physical book.
It would be interesting to see how long it took to put this e-library together, and what the cost might be.
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm
The Mitchell Park Library is the result of having to accept the lowest bid!! Anyway I'm quite happy with the temporary library in the Amphitheater at Cubberley. Perhaps we don't even need this hideous new $40 M. library. I'd love a bookless library.
Posted by Why its so big, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 26, 2013 at 4:23 pm
A major reason it is so big is that the design was based on faulty big population projections. Even after the city corrected its population mistake they still had Group4 design it oversized. Former Library Director Dianne Jennings seemed to be in charge.
Had they used accurate population projections they could have added on to the existing building (as Group4 told them). But the south palo alto advocates wanted big and new and lots of space for children, in effect, a child care facility. They really wanted to trash that handsome building rather than remodel it, and they did.
Posted by Neighbor, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jan 26, 2013 at 10:15 pm
Why it's so big: The square footage of the new library/community center is only the same size as the old library/community center. I sit on the Cubberley Community Advisory Committee and it is our hope that much of what is located at the Cubberley Community Center can remain after that facility is re-built as a high school/community center. The facilities at Cubberley could never fit into the Mitchell Park library/community center.
In other words as the population of south Palo Alto grows we will need ever more community facilities, both Mitchell Park and Cubberley.
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 27, 2013 at 2:58 pm
> If Wayne Martin had his way, we wouldn't even have a Palo Alto Library System
The link posted above describes a Internet/WEB-based “library” system. Yet, “ole Ben” here claims that I (and others) want to “shut down” the libraries. “Old Ben” seems to have a very limited view of “information”. Presumably he sees it as something that only can be found in printed books (p-Books). It’s amazing to dig through WEB-sites dealing with this issue. There are a phenomenal number of “ole Bens” out there who seem to think that being able to download a book/magazine/map/video/audio-record,etc. onto your personal communications device can not possibly provide people with any information. One can only wonder how “ole Ben” came to this belief?
There are also the costs associated with running libraries. Here in Palo Alto, the costs/circulated-item changes on a year-to-year basis, but for the most part, with the opening of this new library, the minimum cost of circulating an item is about $9.00. Over the next thirty years, that cost will jump to about $14/item (mostly due to increasing labor costs). The Palo Alto library circulation has been up until recently) seen about 45% of the total circulation in videos. With videos routinely costing about $1-$1.99), the cost of providing “free videos” is considerable. Over the next thirty years—it can be easily estimated at/about $100M!
The new model of information distribution (“the cloud”) is somewhat disruptive. This model assumes that people pay for their own entertainment—at least more than in the past. Videos can be purchased from Netflix at/about $100-$200/year—which includes an unlimited number of video downloads. People using the library for videos are costing the taxpayers about $100/10 videos. It is very difficult to believe that using public assets to help certain people avoid paying for their entertainment is good public policy.
The disruption of “the cloud” is that information is not longer kept in centralized locations—and can be obtained by everyone, all over the world, whenever they want. The Palo Alto Library system can never provide this sort of access.
Leaving me asking the question—why is costing the taxpayers $10-$14/video for a small number of residents, and non-residents a good use of the public’s money?
Posted by Maurice, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 28, 2013 at 12:24 am
Leo, you offered some very poor excuses. Why does this happen here and not elsewhere? The library is delayed because mistakes were made. Period. If the thing had been conceptualized, designed and managed properly, this wouldn't have happened to the point that we have such a massive delay.
Posted by This thread is degenerating, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 28, 2013 at 10:22 am
The same angry, ill-informed Eeyores getting each other depressed and wound up-- as usual. I'll also sign off for another nine months. It's amazing to me what some people mistake for useful public discuourse.
Wrong venue. Misinformation. Palo Alto Online is a WASTE OF TIME.
Posted by Herman, a resident of another community, on Jan 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm
Unbelievable. I have been involved in construction for over 30 years as Project Manager for Owners and Contractors, including in Palo Alto. Currently I'm managing a 42,000 sf new school in the Cascades Mountains in Oregon, through snow, rain, frozen ground etc. The project has a 16 month schedule, is built on solid rock that took months to remove, and is ahead of schedule to be done this summer. Other than highly technical facilities, I have never heard of a 40,000 sf project taking anywhere near this long. Either the architectural plans are seriously deficient, with subsequent change orders and claims, or incredibly poor management by Contractor or Owner (are there LD's -liguidated damages, which are customary for public projects?).
Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 28, 2013 at 7:06 pm
> Does everyone who owns an e reader buy their e books?
There are many e-formats, and many sources for e-books. The Palo Alto library has a contract with Overdrive to provide newly-released e-books, which as "free" (keeping in mind that the library is paying Overdrive for copyright administration).
There are also millions of older books on Google/Books and the Internet Archive in e-pub format, and kindle format is available on the Internet Archive. All of these sources provide .pdf, of course.
All of these books are quite old. Some of google's holdings go back into the 17th Century now. If you are doing historic reseach, Google bas become a fantastic resource.
There is a caveat, and that OCR work is kind of dodgey on the Internet Archive--but is growing increasingly acceptable for Google/Books--although Google does not support Kindle format.
There are tools on the WEB one can acquire, but that takes a little work.
Not offering excuses, just trying to correct some misinformation that tends to get passed around when an article like this gets comments (e.g. "It's over budget", "There are no penalties for the delay", "why doesn't the council know about this?", etc.). It's easy to vent in an online forum, so I wanted to clear up some misconceptions about this project. Will it be built faster as a result? Likely not, but it's still quite under budget and will be a great place for the community to gather.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2013 at 7:41 pm
Drove by the mammoth San Antonio development twice yesterday. Each time it was a hive of activity with worker ants, machinery and obvious work being done. Also drove past Mitchell Park library twice yesterday, looked like no work had been going on for some time.
Why can't Palo Alto get things done? No excuses, just build the thing and get it finished.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2013 at 10:43 am
While it's easy to vent in an online forum, I think we are entitled to just question a bit what is going on with our taxpayer dollars: some of us regular folks are a bit mystified why it takes so long to build anything - public or private development in PA. It appears to us that buildings, shopping centers, whatever (that function well and look nice) DO indeed get constructed a heckuva lot faster in other local communities.
Posted by fact checker, a resident of another community, on Feb 6, 2013 at 3:12 pm
what everyone has failed to mention with the exception of leo the library commissioner, who only mentioned it obliquely, is that the city essentially asked for these problems. how? by putting out a project without prevailing wage standards for the contractor. when you put something out to the lowest bidder without ever taking the critical steps to make sure that the low bidder uses subcontractors with the highest skills and experience you end up with this type of fiasco. its inevitable that a contractor taking sub bids to the very last moment is going to make the decision to go with the ultra low that gets to its number by having incompetent workers if they think they can get a competitive advantage in securing the work. the city asked for it. and it keeps asking for it every time it puts out a bid without prevailing wage standards.