An alphabet soup of transit authorities and nonprofit organizations was responsible for a Chinatown parking garage renovation that was completed four years late and went $4.5 million over budget, but a city auditor blames lax Rec and Parks Department oversight.
We thought the most controversial thing at Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square Park these days was the proposed removal of a concrete pedestrian bridge that connected it to the Hilton Hotel. But what lies beneath the park — a four-level, 456-space, city-owned parking garage that’s been there for sixty years — is now the source of finger-pointing. The Chronicle reports on a city audit that found the renovation of the Portsmouth Square Parking Garage went four years late and $4.5 million over budget compared to its original timeline, and ultimately faults the SF Rec and Parks Department for allowing the delays and overruns.
“The audit found that the PPPC Board was ill-equipped to effectively manage the renovation project, causing it to be $4.5 million (52 percent) over budget, completed a year late, and missing at least $1 million worth of planned work,” director of audits with the SF Office of the Controller Mark de la Rosa said in an audit, per the Chronicle. “As the project owner, Rec & Park was responsible to oversee the garage renovation project on the City’s behalf, a responsibility that cannot be delegated.”
The renovation was structured with many cooks in the kitchen; in addition to Rec and Parks (who own it on paper, because there is a park on top), the garage is under the jurisdiction of the MTA because it's a city-owned lot. But the lot is overseen by a Portsmouth Plaza Parking Corporation (PPPC), whose board and advisory board is a who’s who of Chinatown movers and shakers like Lion’s Den owner Steven Lee, and Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory owner Kevin Chan.
The project was slated to start in December 2014 (it started two-and-a-half years late) and was slated to be finished in June 2016 (it was completed in April 2020). In a sign of further chaos, the Chronicle notes that “It ended up going through three general contractors before it was finally deemed completed in April 2020, after the scope of the job had been scaled back significantly.”
Rec and Parks general manager Phil Ginsburg did respond to the Chronicle’s questions, but mostly about how they’d handle oversight going forward. “Ginsburg said he had already complied with recommendations to improve oversight of the garage,” according to the Chronicle. “He also stated that the PPPC would no longer manage any capital improvement projects and that it would not be allowed to enter into any contracts without the prior approval of Rec & Park.”
And there is likely more controversy coming to Portsmouth Square, again, regarding that overpass pedestrian bridge. As Hoodline reported in January, plans are taking shape to demolish the little used, much-despised footbridge — but now there may be litigation over who should pay for it, the Hilton Hotel across the street, or the city.
Image: Steve D. via Yelp