The cost of restoring the Stern Grove park after last August’s water damage has ballooned to five times the original cost estimate, according to documents submitted to the Board of Supervisors.
When the 2022 Stern Grove Festival schedule leaked via a Muni ad this week, we wondered if this was some sort of intentional, viral marketing stunt. (It wasn't. SFGate confirmed Monday afternoon that it was Muni’s mistake, with a Muni spokesperson admitting “the lineup announcement was posted on our Muni buses earlier than was scheduled.”)
But still, Stern Grove may prefer that something knocked their $4 million cleanup efforts out of the headlines. After a water main broke and gushed 700,000 gallons of water in the park last August, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved $4 million to pay for the cleanup in November.
That’s… going to be a few dollars more. According to legislation scheduled before the supervisors on Tuesday, the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is “increasing the cost by $16,000,000,” and now asking for $20 million to repair Stern Grove.
As of publication at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the board is still debating car-free JFK Drive for now the sixth consecutive hour. (Edit: At 10:35 p.m. Tuesday evening, the board voted unanim0usly to approve the $20 million Stern Grove clean-up pricetag.)
A 611-page document dump submitted to them attempted to explain just how we got from a $4 million estimate from just five months ago, to a staggering $20 million estimate today.
“The remediation work has progressed and uncovered more damage than was initially visible in the wake of the incident,” that lengthy document says. “Based on the revised and expanded scope of work necessary to remediate the emergency to repair and restore Stern Grove, SFPUC staff now estimates the cost of the work will not exceed $20,000,000.”
The chart above shows you the difference between the first $4 million estimate, and the new, somehow 500% higher $20 million estimate. In the fine-print details, the report says the new, expanded-scope tasks include “rebuilding the slope using engineered soils; rebuilding drainage systems and structural retaining walls to stabilized the hillside and to mitigate against future erosion and failure; protecting in-place the existing large diameter sewer within the footprint of the impacted slope; removal and reinstallation of historical rock walls; restoration of concert and west meadow turfgrass; replacement of exterior and interior furnishings at the ancillary buildings following moisture and mold abatements as a result of significant water egress into the buildings; removal of 63 large eucalyptus trees and replanting of eucalyptus trees within the impacted slope; and restoration of the Vale Street parking lot and tennis courts.”
The good news is that this will not affect Stern Grove concerts! According to the request for funds, “Restoration of the concert area is expected to be completed by June 2022, in time for the outdoor concert series. Restoration of the tennis courts is expected by December 2022. All work is expected to be complete in Summer 2023.”
But still, there are sure to be difficult questions when this goes before the board, After all, the SFPUC requesting the funds has been a little bit scandal-plagued these last couple years, with the commission’s previous director getting his home raided over fraud charges (plus there may have been a little cocaine involved).
So it will be very interesting to see what the board has to say about this unexpected request to go 500% over budget. We will update this post with those developments, but that may not be until the wee hours early Wednesday morning.