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Presidio playground finally set to reopen 13 months late

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A contractor’s misplaced decimal point sent park project into tailspin

In September of 2015, San Francisco Recreation and Parks announced that the playground at Mountain Lake Park, located on the southern flank of the Presidio, would undergo a multi-million dollar renovation, and open again in May of the following year.

A full 12 months after the original finish date, the playground remains closed, although the city finally announced the end of the $3 million project and a June 8 reopening date. The refreshed park will feature new equipment, new “safety surfaces” for kids to fall on, and “a landscaped terrace of switch back ramps, stairs, and bridges to provide unique play experience.”

Construction delays are normal on civic projects, but what in the world happened here?

According to Richmond Blog, the culprit was literally the smallest of things: a single misplaced decimal point in a contractor’s paperwork. Says the blog:

When the construction company CF Contracting submitted their bid for the playground renovation, they misplaced a decimal point on a line item, quoting the cost as $35,000 when it should have been $350,000.

CF’s bid was accepted, since the city is legally obligated to accept the lowest bid on construction projects. [...But] CF discovered their error and filed a lawsuit in May 2015 against the city, requesting that the error be corrected in the contract and the difference in the bid be honored.

Unbelievably, that all really happened, as the contractor explained in the suit (actually filed March of 2016).

CF Contracting pointed out in its complaint that it “advised DPW it made a significant clerical error in composing its bid” (no kidding) and that “the request was made in a timely manner.”

Note that the $350K was only part of a larger contract for $1.96 million. Still, the city balked at the sudden decupling in the price of one line item thanks to an errant keystroke. In July 2016, City Attorney Dennis Herrera wrote:

“CF’s complaint argues that even though CF executed a written contract with the city to perform a work for a set amount of money that the city cannot enforce that contract. [...] No matter how CF frames this, [...] it fails to make a claim.

Courtesy DPW
Courtesy DPW

The centerpiece concrete slide remains and has reportedly been restored.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is still considering the question of which bid counts—the one the company thought it was making or the one the city thought it was accepting.

A potential settlement would pay out about $120,000 to CF to cushion the blow of their math mix-up.

In the meantime, the contentious contractor has finally finished the work. No one at Recreation and Parks—which does not appear to have been directly involved with the fight between CF and DPW but ended up having to answer for the 13 months of delays anyway—was immediately available to comment on the project.

A more optimistic February 2017 date put forth at the end of last year ran into more delays, not from litigation this time but simply from the rain.