Request for transparency
Kennedy calls for more community input in renovation of Robinson Park
By André Coleman 10/02/2013
Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy made it clear at a recent council meeting that he wants more community involvement in the multimillion-dollar Robinson Park Recreation Center Renovation project.
At Kennedy’s urging, the council voted 4-3 at its Sept. 23 meeting to reject a motion that would have awarded Pasadena-based architectural firm Gonzales Goodale with a $750,000 contract to renovate the park’s recreation center by expanding the 19,000-square-foot facility by another 11,000 square feet.
Kennedy called for his council colleagues to vote against the bid, primarily because the Robinson Park Renovation Steering Committee — made up of members of the Northwest and Recreation and Parks commissions, as well as members of the community — were not involved in authoring the request for proposals (RFP) for the project, or in soliciting firms to compete and interviewing and scoring the responses to those RFPs.
“This lack of community involvement has created a perception by some stakeholders that the playing field was not level and the process was not fair,” Kennedy said at the meeting. “The RFP process could predetermine, inadvertently or deliberately, who ultimately wins the project.”
After Kennedy made his statement, Council members Jacque Robinson, Terry Tornek and Gene Masuda joined him in voting against the staff recommendation to award the contract to Gonzalez Goodale.
Council members Margaret McAustin and Steve Madison, along with Mayor Bill Bogaard, voted in favor of awarding the contract to the firm. Councilman Victor Gordo was absent from the meeting.
Kennedy later told the Weekly he had nothing against the local firm, but wanted to increase more transparency in the bid selection process.
Members of the steering committee have been asked to submit evaluations of the RFP process, which will go to Assistant City Manager Steve Mermell for consideration. It is not known if architects will have to resubmit RFPs.
Gonzalez Goodale scored at the top in every criterion in the RFP evaluation process, logging 661 points, which placed it on a short list with another Pasadena-based firm, the DLR Group. The Glendale-based firm Osborn Architects and WLC Architects Inc., of Rancho Cucamonga, also made the short list. In total, 17 firms submitted proposals for the job, six of them from firms located in Pasadena.
Gonzalez Goodale designed the city’s 31,400-square-foot Department of Water and Power building after the company was awarded a $10-million contract in 2007.
The firm also designed the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles — designed by Pasadena architect Myron Hunt and the site where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated following his victory speech in the 1968 California Primary.
The city Department of Public Works created an initial RFP earlier this year that required firms to provide proof they were the architect of record on at least two recreation center projects. That criterion was revised as a way to encourage city staff to increase the participation of local firms in the bidding process.
“If an RFP awards five points because of past experience with the city, that can eliminate certain architects, including Pasadena-based ones, from successfully competing for a contract,” Kennedy said. “Having community involvement increases the likelihood of identifying and addressing such potential consequences.”
“We have to have transparency so the people will stop continuing to question how you treat them in their community,” said local developer Jim Morris. “It has to stop. We are asking you at this moment to allow the steering committee to interview all 17 [applicants] and make a decision if the right architect made the cut.”
In the first of the project’s two phases, the city demolished an industrial center and expanded the park at North Fair Oaks Avenue and Mountain Street by 2.5 acres, to a total of 9.5 acres. A new recreation field, artificial turf, new lighting, concession stands and restrooms were also installed.
“Robinson Park is our park,” said community activist Martin Gordon. “The community needs to be heard. We want to take back our park for the community and to make sure it expands for community and family gatherings, and that expansion plans are in the best interest of our community and not outside interests.”
This is not the first controversy involving the $13.3 million renovation project, which is partially funded by a $6 million loan from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In 2009, local construction workers told the Pasadena Weekly that their pay had dropped significantly after they were hired at $30 per hour to work on the project under the city’s First Source Hiring Ordinance, a regulation used to promote local hiring in exchange for tax rebates for contractors.
Those workers were taking home more than $1,000 per week when they started, but later told the Weekly they were never told their time on the job would be cut to 10 hours or less per week. Pasadena resident Leandra Hayes told the Weekly he wasn’t doing any construction or learning skills as they were promised during the orientation. Instead, the men were spending much of their time picking up trash and cleaning the field. On rare occasions, Hayes and others hired under the First Source Ordinance were allowed to pour gravel.
The actual construction work was being done by workers who did not live in Pasadena. In phase one, Chino-based CS Legacy outbid 50 other companies, including one from Pasadena, to complete the project. The company promised to hire 16 local people, but that commitment was never fulfilled, according to Hayes.
According to a staff report on the project’s second phase — one recommending Gonzalez Goodale — there is only scant mention of local hiring.
The report reads: “Possible areas of local hire include an intern or an additional community-based professional consultant to be involved in the project. This opportunity could provide valuable exposure and professional development experience.”
“I don’t want anyone to be able to say they have not had a chance to participate in the process,” Kennedy said. “If we have community involvement, no developer or community member can come forward and question the outcome. It will make for a much better project if everyone has a chance to be involved.”