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By Shawn Raymundo
Beautification plans to remodel Verdugo Street in San Juan’s downtown district could begin by mid-October following the city council’s latest vote to award the project contract to C.S. Legacy Construction.
Councilmembers voted, 4-0, on Tuesday, Sept. 17, to approve a $1.72 million contract award to Legacy, which had submitted the lowest bid during the city’s recent request for bids process. The vote also authorizes a transfer of $690,000 in other city coffers to help pay for the project, estimated to cost nearly $2.2 million.
Just as he has done in previous deliberations over the project, Councilmember John Taylor recused himself from the vote Tuesday, as his residency is within close proximity of the proposed project and, therefore, could create a potential for financial impact and pose a conflict of interest.
In mid-July, the council voted to approve the remodeling plans and specifications for the capital improvement project, allowing the city to begin accepting bids from potential contractors.
The project intends to make Verdugo Street more pedestrian-friendly by widening the sidewalk and implementing new landscaping, brick paving, lighting and street furniture.
From its entrance at Camino Capistrano to near the end of the cul-de-sac, the street would narrow from 40 feet to 28 feet. When complete, the south-side sidewalk will widen from 6 feet to 11 feet, while the north-side curb extends from about 5.5 feet to nearly 12.5 feet, according to the city.
The plans also include the addition of string lights hung over the sidewalk and street. The council’s vote approved license agreements with the property owners of Capistrano Plaza and Alfa Plaza, which sit along Verdugo Street, to have the string lights affixed to the buildings.
And, with the help of the Rotary Club of San Juan Capistrano, the city will install a four-faced clock in the downtown corridor. The clock, which will be donated to the city by the Rotary Club, will include a plaque inscription that both entities will need to approve in the coming months, according to the city.
In total, the project is anticipated to cost just more than $2.19 million when taking into account Legacy’s construction bid, contingency costs and other construction-related expenses, according to the city, which has a little more than $1.5 million earmarked for the plans—a shortfall of $690,000.
The city’s estimate includes a 16% contingency cost of $275,000 for change orders—work that’s either added to or deleted from the project. The council’s vote also gives City Manager Ben Siegel the authority to approve change orders that don’t exceed the $275,000 contingency.
To make up the $690,000 shortfall, the council voted to tap into the city’s Successor Agency Non-Housing Bonds for $120,000, the Systems Development Funds for another $120,000 and Community Facilities District Funds for $450,000.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, Siegel said the transfer of those funds won’t negatively impact any other projects the city may be working on.
“We found a few different funding sources that this project is eligible to receive, so it won’t impact or delay any other projects.” Siegel said.
During the council’s discussion on the project, Mayor Pro Tem Troy Bourne revisited a concern he had previously raised during the July 16 meeting over the size of tree pots that are to be placed down the middle of the sidewalks.
“I don’t want to slow this process down. I hate those pots, and I flagged this last time, and I think it’s going to be an issue,” Bourne said, concerned that the pots’ size will effectively reduce the amount of sidewalk space for pedestrians, defeating the purpose of widening them. He added, “I think it’s going to be an issue.”
According to City Engineer Joe Parco, there are four pedestals for the pots that will be added to the north-side sidewalk and six on the south-side sidewalk.
Siegel and Public Works Director Steve May told the council that they can have a discussion with the contractor over the size of the pots and could possibly issue a change as a change order.
Councilmember Derek Reeve, along with Councilmember Sergio Farias, noted that they like the pots and didn’t have much of an issue with their width. Farias later asked city staff if any of the local businesses raised concerns with the pots, to which they shook their heads “no.”
Local resident Kathy Hobstetter, who had also stood with Bourne on the issue during the July meeting, spoke on the topic again Tuesday, stating that the pots could impede handicap accessibility.
“The pots are too big. I love the pots, I think they’re great, but I think when you take the handicapped issues into it, it’s a problem,” she said, adding: “From a handicapped position, the pots are too big. I love the pots, but I’m going to fall down, and then we have a lot of problems. . . . Just make them smaller.”
Acknowledging that he wasn’t going to get a third councilmember on his side of the issue, Bourne put aside his reservations and joked that he’ll “steal the pots on Saturday night.”
Legacy was one of four companies that submitted bids for the capital improvement project. The city received bids from Calpromax Engineering, Inc. for more than $1.81 million; EBS General Engineering for close to $2.22 million; and from Palp, Inc., also known as Excel Paving Company, for nearly $2.58 million.
Parco told the council Tuesday that the city staff had checked on Legacy’s references, licenses and their past performances.
“They have come out positive,” Parco said.
According to the city, preconstruction for the project is expected to take place between late-September and mid-October, with actual construction estimated to begin from late- to mid-October. The city could see the project completed by spring 2020.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow The Dispatch @CapoDispatch.