From the July-August 2014 issue.
Like waiting for K-line, construction of the new Muni drivers’ restroom at the renovated Phelan Bus Terminal has taken twice as long as planned.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency chose Granite Rock Construction Division in January 2013 to rebuild the bus terminal and drivers’ bathroom by October 2013. While the bus terminal was completed on time, the restroom construction continued until June 2014.
The restroom project was “not under the [same] time pressure” as was the broader bus loop project, which was completed in four months, according to John Katz, a transit planner at MTA.
Acquiring the building permit for the restroom accounted for the project’s first delay. Work started on the restroom in April, but did not pick up again until July. That work was the preliminary installation of plumbing and electrical utilities, which does not require a building permit, Katz said.
SFMTA applied through the Department of Building Inspection for a permit to build the restroom in April 2013, and received the permit in July, according to the project’s progress meeting minutes. Establishing a mailing address delayed the permit process, according to Katz.
A building permit cannot be issued with for a site by block and lot number alone. “An address is needed for a building site to be registered with the city,” Peter Gibson at the Department of Building Inspection said.
The project bid for the entire Phelan Loop upgrade went to Granite Rock in the amount of $4,919,600. Katz said that the project financing came from different funding sources including 2010 money from the Federal Transportation Authority, and proceeds from the land sale of the adjacent lot, currently under construction as the site of a new mixed use/affordable housing development.
As for the drivers’ restroom, the Granite Rock Construction’s bid shows the cost to be $383,850. With overruns, Katz said the total cost would be about 10-15% above that amount. Katz said that Muni was “obligated to [its] operators” by contract to build the restroom, which is a replacement of a 34-year-old facility.
But where the old restroom was utilitarian in its design, the new restroom is “one-of-a kind.” The structure is unique in that it incorporates curves and features three compartments— a male and a female restroom and a mechanical cabinet in between, housing a fuse box for the landscape garden irrigation system and lights.
“The curvature of the materials required a specialized contractor,” Katz said. Kyle McLean of Granite Rock Construction Division acknowledged that the restroom construction was sub-contracted to another company, and that the issues with the siding and roof were due to complicated dimension issues with curved materials and delays with an out-of-country manufacturer.
McLean said that he primarily worked on the project during the four months it took to reconfigure the main loop. “I had a great time on the project,” McLean said. As for the drivers’ restroom, he referred to that phase of the project as “ancillary.”
Katz preferred “secondary” in describing the priority level for building the restroom. Nonetheless, there is evidence of SFMTA’s concern at the project’s dragging timeline. A letter from December 2013 by Victor Yuen, a resident engineer at SFMTA, informed McLean that the MTA was “very concerned about the progress and delayed completion of the operators’ restrooms.”
The restrooms became operational early in 2014, but protective film still covered the exterior. That was due to “an issue with a siding panels” Katz said. The panels did not fit and needed to be re-fabricated by the Canadian manufacturer.
Contractors were also working on the roof through May. “Contract specifications specified a roof drainage that was not compatible with the roof system,” Katz said, so “Construction made a decision to change the roof drainage to one that was compatible […] in order to maintain validity of the [roofing materials’] warranty.”
All the while, the year-plus construction has affected the surrounding area. A landscaped garden managed by the Ocean Avenue Association has been “occupied” by the contractors throughout construction, according to Daniel Weaver, executive director of the Ocean Avenue Association.
Weaver had consulted with Katz about the boundaries of the garden area. The contractors nonetheless occupied the entire garden at various phases of construction, storing tools and unknowingly removing a tree planted in memorial of a deceased resident. The tree was eventually replaced, along with bark chip cover and the interrupted irrigation system in April and May.
“It was a big mess while the construction was going on, and it made it hard to get volunteers in,” Weaver said. “They didn’t have to occupy the garden.”