Town Square

Post a New Topic

Fresh snags to delay opening of Mitchell Park Library

Original post made on Nov 13, 2013

Palo Alto's frustrating slog to rebuild the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center is facing a fresh wave of construction setbacks, pushing the estimated completion date of the beleaguered project to early spring of 2014.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 3:10 PM

Comments (45)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Overdue
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Why am I not at all surprised? I hope the city's 'empty threat' convinces the contractor into fulfilling their obligations. (It won't )
This is a perfect case study of how not to build a public library.
I would write a book about it... but there's no library to put it in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Can't help it, I am still laughing.

Anyone know how Main library is getting on? Will it win the race and open first? Or is it having problems too?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Oh, and the children we were told to remember when voting? They are about to graduate college!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Reminds me of Obamacare.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nonsense
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Really, ken, how does the Mitchell park library remind you of Obamacare? Or is that what rush Limbaugh told you on the radio this morning.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Please don't occupy this building before the first good hard rain. Why incur even more damages when water damages the interior?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another Side
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm

There are 3 sides to every story. My son worked for Fintco for many years and had nothing but great things to say about this company. The only reason that he left was because his wife's company transfew her (with a huge promotion) to another part of the country. Fintco has a good record over the years and I would love to hear their side. Remember, this was the city's first building from the ground up (not remodel) in over 30 years. Just having to deal with the city on our remodel was very disappointing in their professionalism.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm

When was it originally scheduled to be completed? Was it in the summer of 2011 or the summer of 2012? In any case it will be 2 to 3 years late. Astounding. Especially for what we get. It is so ugly. I dearly miss our understated, elegant building we had before, as well as the nice landscaping and many trees.

We could have upgraded and strengthened as well as added on to what we had before. But no, we had to do the American thing: destroy it all and start from scratch. With the terrible result we now have. A monstrous eyesore years behind schedule.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Oh, I'm so surprised.

Ever notice how incompetent governments are at getting things done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Confused
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2013 at 6:39 am

How many Libraries does this city need? Isn't most everything at your fingertips and a keyboard swipe away? I would hate to see anyone have to walk a few blocks to go to the next library... Palo Alto currently has 7 libraries posted on their web site plus a virtual library.

Here are a few stats:

Palo Alto population in 2012 was 66,363 which equates to 9,480 per library
San Jose population in 2012 was 987,765 which equates to 42,729 per library
Berkely population in 2012 was 115,403 whis equates to 16,486 per library

I didn't factor in the virtual or mobile libraries from each city. I understand the need for knowledge but at what price do we need to draw the line. With modern technology and Palo Alto being the tip of the spear when it comes to technology, one would think we could do a better job for the buck...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:04 am

don't be Confused any longer.

Here's one reason not to be confused: you don't want the government knowing about everything you looked into. Physical vs virtual, privacy vs everybody knowing.

Other reasons have to do with learning by browsing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:37 am

"how does the Mitchell park library remind you of Obamacare?"

I thought it was fairly obvious:

Overpromised, overpriced, overdue ... and it will be declared a success, by its promoters, no matter what.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon and Samuel Baume
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:52 am

"Overpromised, overpriced, overdue ... and it will be declared a success, by its promoters, no matter what."
Not sure, Ken, why you feel the need to inject your [portion removed] politics into this discussion. But your comparison is bogus--the ACA is brand new--just over a month. Of course there will be glitches--you need time to fix them. ANd do not forget how the republicans have tried rom day one to cut funding and destroy the ACA. We will see in the long run what the verdict will be. [Portion removed.]

Now to the topic at hand--the library. Everyone is blaming the contractor. We have to see what the whole story was. I believe the Weekly did a piece a number of months ago on this and it appeared that the city never had a final set of blueprints available and they were constantly making changes.
Perhaps the weekly, once the library opens, can do an in depth piece looking at this whole fiasco. I am sure the city is not blameless


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:29 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Can we leave the artistic style comments out. We will never agree.

Focus on quality of construction (or lack thereof).
Having leaks and books do not mix. I agree, do not occupy until AFTER a successful Heavy rainfall leak/water damage free report.

Does the fact that Palo Alto has many unique building codes, leads to more failed inspections? Did the contractors run into conflicting inspection requirements?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 9:35 am

> Does the fact that Palo Alto has many unique building codes,
> leads to more failed inspections?

Is this really true?

The continuing saga of this debacle, as reported in the local media, seems to turn around the fact that the plans that were bid on could not be constructed without a goodly number of change orders to augment failures of the architects, as well as all of those checking plans. The City has not been very forthcoming with the public about the needs for these change orders. Having both a construction company, and a second construction management company, in charge of the construction has left the project with a very convoluted management structure. We have a 1) City Manager, 2) Director of Public Works, 3) City Project Manager, 4) Flintco Project Manager, and Turner Construction Project Manager (although Turner may be gone now). So--who is in charge? No one who works for the City seems to be stepping up and saying: "the buck stops here". Subcontractors have claimed that Flintco has not been paying, and/or the City has not been paying.

There will be plenty of blame to go around--but it's unlikey the City will ever provide the public any real insight into their handling of this fiasco.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Galt
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

Amen, Ken.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Another Million dollars
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

Not to mention the Library Directors and the Library Foundation who promised us the moon and the biggest bonanza.
Adding insult to injury, on this week's Council Consent Agenda:
Approval of a Contract Amendment with Envisionware, Inc., for an Amount Not to Exceed $463,000 for the Automatic Materials Handling System at the Main Library, For a Total Contract Not Exceeding $1,000,000 for the Main and Mitchell Park Libraries


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

What a huge waste of public money! Now the City is pushing for a new public safety building. How much will that cost? and how long will that take to build? Heads should roll at City Hall for this mess, but alas this is government where accountability goes to die.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:11 am

> Approval of a Contract Amendment with Envisionware, Inc.,
> for an Amount Not to Exceed $463,000 for the
> Automatic Materials Handling System at the Main Library,
> For a Total Contract Not Exceeding $1,000,000 for the Main
> and Mitchell Park Libraries

At one level, this is good news--since it means that the library staff has finally, after more than a decade, managed to see some what to use automatic book handing equipment to (possibly) reduce staff requirements, and ultimately reduce the number of job-related injuries.

Unfortunately, the world has changed. It is difficult to believe that books will continue to be the way people read in the future. For the cost of this equipment (and this is not likely to be the total cost), the taxpayers could have purchased 30,000 to 40,000 kindles, or other tablet-type reading devices. For the cost of outfitting any "computer lab" in the library, the City could have created a mesh network for the whole city--giving everyone a kindle (if they wanted one) and access to the Internet from just about anywhere they happened to be in the City.

Besides the bungling of the management of this project--the cost of running the facility over the coming decades will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars--while hundreds of millions of books, newspapers, videos, radio programs and music can be obtained on-line.

Maybe this automatic handling equipment will be used for a few years. But it's difficult to believe that the facility will be used by our children in the future, as the promoters of this behemoth promised the voters.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan Tuerk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:13 am

The saga of the Winchester Mystery Library continues......


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

Perhaps the world will take the path suggested by Wayne, but as a passionate reader for the past 6 decades, I suspect if I'd taken the path of the Kindle, my eyesight would have gone long ago, or I might have electrocuted myself out of existence when I dropped the Kindle into the bathtub.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:33 am

" Of course there will be glitches--you need time to fix them"

Glitches? Train wrecks are not mere glitches. Botched planning, weak leadership, convenient apologies do not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Mitchell Park library and Obamacare have much in common. Throw in high speed rail, if you wish. When government first chooses to deceive, it will be relieved (of duty)...the next time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GG
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:38 am

We got what we deserve, if we keep the Curent Council, City manager, and lawuer


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

When I was in Project Management I learned a very important lesson. The construction company will never perform if they are losing money on the job. Pony up the funds, get rid of the people (construction management) that are not performing and keep it out of court. It will be cheaper and quicker even though the City may be right.

I'm looking forward to using that new building!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon and Samuel Baume
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

"Glitches? Train wrecks are not mere glitches. Botched planning, weak leadership, convenient apologies do not make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. "
Coming from someone who supports the republican's undercutting of the ACA at every turn. How unamerican.

Web Link
"However, they also concede the technology problems will likely get resolved, as promised again Wednesday by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
The broader GOP focus is on their dislike for the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 with no Republican support and upheld last year by the Supreme Court."

ANyway, ken try to stay on topic. [Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:52 am

> I suspect if I'd taken the path of the Kindle,
> my eyesight would have gone long ago

All of the digital reading devices provide the user with customizable point-size controls to allow them to adjust the size of the charters on the screen to their personal comfort level. This control is so flexible that Kindle/E-book users who have visual impairments which have previously required that they depend on a public source for large-print reading materials can now have access to anything that can be downloaded onto a digital device.

Example:

E-book Readers Help Visually Impaired:
Web Link

Andy Brown's Vision Impaired Kindle:
Web Link

In addition, Kindles have added a text-to-voice capability that allows people who are blind access to reading material that has not necessarily been recorded into an audio-book format. (Note—some copyright issues have emerged from this feature, so the availability of text-to-speech on Kindles might be questionable for all books available on the Amazon web-site.

Sites like the Internet Archive now provide Kindle formatted e-books, so people are not restricted to just Amazon sources. Other digital formats, such as provided by Sony, open up the world of digitized reading far more than that offered by Amazon.

It's a shame that people living in Palo Alto, claiming to be so well educated, would not know the capabilities of the technology that has, in large part, been developed here in the Silicon Valley (e-Ink, the material used for the screens on most e-book readers, was originally developed at Xerox PARC.)

Claims about losing one's eye sight by shifting to digital reading devices is really very hard to believe. Yet, such claims persist in this town.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Re the E-books, funny how there's never a wait to reserve E-book titles while there's always a huge waiting list to reserve the same titles as real books.

That being said, the city should never have started work on the Main Library until Mitchell Park was finished in the same way they shouldn't do street repairs to parallel streets.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

[Portion removed.] The so-called 'Friends of Libraries' just wanted to charge forward, despite the fact that a previous head of the libraries in PA was forced out, because she wanted to consolidate. With 'friends' like this, the libraries don't need any more enemies. This train wreck is just one more example of PA government exuberance and wacko planning.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Josh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Most cites the size of Palo Alto have 2-3 libraries. Times have changed. I'm sorry, but we don't need 7 libraries! I would like to see the data on how much each one is used vs the cost of staffing and maintaining the building.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:24 pm

> "No one who works for the City seems to be stepping up and saying: 'the buck stops here'"

Too true! You should know by now that the city never holds anyone accountable for anything. In fact, City Manager Keene claims the Mitchell Park fiasco as one of his "Key Achievements" in the 2014 budget: "Completed 75% of the construction on Mitchell Park Library and Community Center."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Did anyone else get an email from the library with a survey on library usage?

It will be interesting to see what the results of this survey show. I hope that the Weekly will publish the results to see what people surveyed really think. The library bond vote was not a green light for them to do anything they wanted, just to improve the library building that we already had.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shirley
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Is this what happens when governments take the lowest bidder on a construction project?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm

@ Josh, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

"Most cites the size of Palo Alto have 2-3 libraries. Times have changed. I'm sorry, but we don't need 7 libraries!"

we don't have 7, we have 4+1 children's Web Link

I had no idea that there was a CT Branch - that one propably needs to go? & Children's Library needs to be moved to the new Mitchell Park's (when it's ready :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm

So, the library that voters decided should be built in 2008 will not open until 2014?

Voters in Santa Clara agreed to build the 49ers new stadium in 2010. Money was secured a year later. Construction began in 2012. It will officially open in July 2014.

When a 75,000 seat state-of-the-art stadium can be designed and built in a shorter time span than a library, then something is seriously wrong with this picture.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm

> Did anyone else get an email from the library
> with a survey on library usage?

No .. in the past, before the last vote that authorized this project, the library commissioned at least two different surveys, which were conducted over the phone. At the time of the last survey (five or six years ago), it was noted to the library director that no cell phone users were included in this survey--which excluded a large number of people in town, skewing the results to reflect the opinions, and practices, of older people.

The possibility of the use of email, or on-line surveys, by the library was never suggested by the library, or the city council, at that time.

Almost all of the data that people use to justify library use in Palo Alto is not very well researched.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm

What a sad, distressing string of comments! It's obvious Mitchell Park Library construction has not gone well. From what I've read, it appears the General Contractor has done a poor job. But lots of what I read here is bashing the whole idea of building a new library, especially the anti-book folks. I am a HEAVY library user who lives in Midtown and is DYING for my local library to re-open. So I was obviously disappointed to find out it won't be this year.

But I don't see any reason to rain abuse on City of Palo Alto officials. I will say, however, that perhaps the best course might have been cancelling the contract of Flintco for non-performance a long time ago. But can't we ascribe any good motives to city officials? Maybe they thought cancellation would cause even further delays.

As to the screeds about books dying out, I've read plenty of articles to the contrary. In my opinion, anyone who says books won't be around in the future is not a real reader. I can't even count all the wonderful books I've read in my life that I had no idea even existed until I browsed the New Books area at Palo Alto libraries and something caught my eye.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

> But I don't see any reason to rain abuse on City of Palo Alto officials.

Perhaps you have been too busy reading books that have been paid for by other people to read the free newspapers that have reported on this affair. If memory serves, some large number of change orders have been issued--which the construction company claims were necessary to actually build the building. Might you, as a voracious reader, have any idea whose job it is to design the building, and to insure that the design can be built?

Well--it might come as a shock to you that that responsibility for the design falls on the people who want the building built--in this case, the planning department, the city manager, and the city council. It's their job to insure that the project is viable, and that there is sufficient funds available to insure that all the parties are paid.

What makes you believe that the construction company--be it Flintco, or any other outfit, has any responsibility in generating the design, and insuring that it can be built? Yes, once the construction company signs the contract, it does assume a lot of responsibility--but once it turns out the the plans are flawed, then some of that responsibility falls back on the owner (in this case the city) to agree to the change orders, to back out of the contract, incuring whatever losses that implies, or to fix the plans so that the contractor can continue.

And then there is the issue of who is actually paying the bills. If the contractor is billing the city, and then not paying his subcontractors that is one thing. However, if the city is responsible for paying the subcontractors--that is another. So, do you know who is responsible for paying the bills? Does the money go to Flintco, or to the subcontractors directly. Can you assure us, as a big-time reader, that all of the bills that are the responsibility of the city have been paid in full, and on time?

As noted above, there is a lot of blame to go around here--and no one on the city's side seems to be standing up and saying that the city is in any way responsible.

That's what people are finding themselves with not having much good to say about those associated with this project on the city side.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I spent many months trying to explain to the City Council the problems we have with upzoning of the Maybell site. I think I now have a better feeling for why so many city run projects end up like this.

In this city council you have a set of individuals who never investigate anything very much. They rely on the advice of the city staff who apparently tailors the reports so that the council likes it. I got to know Tim Wong, the senior planner, a little bit. Though a very pleasant person he doesn't have a single ounce of investigative sense and curiosity in him. He just accepted everything and anything PAHC told the city and totally ignored facts. He just parroted what PAHC said. I once found out, in total astonishment, that he never visited the Stevenson House or looked at their web site or talked to anyone there but he kept on asserting that Stevenson House and the Maybell apartments were the same kind of senior housing and they have the same parking needs!

If you do a construction project in your house with the level of "home work" the city staff and the council do you could be sure that you will end up with a bad contractor and miscalculated costs and all that.

I hope next year we can elect intelligent individuals who really care about the city and who are willing to spend the time and do what it takes to do a good job.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Who is the architect responsible for designing this nightmare? It's very sad that south Palo Alto has had to endure not only the loss of their Community Center and Library for several years, but now have to look at this abomination for decades to come with it's gaudy yellow trim. Doesn't this City have an Architectural Review Board???? They must have been out-to-lunch when this project came through.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gotta Cry
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

The contractor is incompetent.

Period. End of story.

The City should have pulled the performance bond a year ago and retained a competent contractor to complete the project.

Leaving the architectural aesthetic design aside, there may be some component of questionable construction documents involved...but the VAST majority of the construction problems are with Flintco.

Reading through the City's consultant's reports and sitting in on the counsel discussions...Flintco and its subcontractors have failed to perform as required at EVERY STEP of the project.

If you take glee in saying this is a Palo Alto problem...you are probably just blowing hot air. All publicly funded projects will require open bidding. If your only selection criteria is a GC license, performance bond and low bid...this is the inevitable result.

Again...the City should pull the bond and retain a qualified contractor to complete the project. This is why a performance bond is required.

Oh yes...ths project has nothing whatsoever to do with Obamacare, Mayfield, Alma Plaza or any other windmill you wish to tilt at.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2013 at 7:35 am

Paly Alum is a registered user.

Why do they have to have BOTH big libraries closed at the same time? There is no place to study for my children. The downtown library doesn't have enough parking. Thanks, Einsteins.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Left of Boom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2013 at 7:43 am

Left of Boom is a registered user.

It's extremely short sighted to think people don't read books or use the library. The library probably has usage statistics and, except for the inconvenience caused by the construction, book usage is probably not down even with the addition of eBooks. Though I don't have these statistics, Mitchell Park is probably the most heavily used library in Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 15, 2013 at 11:47 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Elizabeth
You can drop a Kindle into an occupied bath without the fear of electrocution.

The highest voltage is less than 5 volts. Additionally, Electrocution requires your heart or brain be between the power supply terminals and the voltage be high enough to cause at least 1 mili-ampere to flow in that high resistance path.
What you end up with is a ruined Kindle, about the same end result if you dropped a printed book into the drink.

older Kindles do not have back lights like computer screens, so they tend to be easy on the eyes.

Unfortunately, I understand why Main started their remodel before MP reopened.
The Bid was based on the target delivery date. Every day of delay increases cost. We already have enough of those at MP :/


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm

pat is a registered user.

Library data can be found at:
Web Link

Back in 2008, when the library bond was passed, actual data from door counters at the branches showed that only 9.8% of all library visitors in FY 2007 went to the Downtown branch and only 6.3% visited College Terrace.

The 2007 library audit concluded – as one would expect – that more branches cost more: larger staff and more money for operating costs like maintenance, gardening, utilities, etc.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


To post your comment, please click here to Log in

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Sneak peek: Bradley's Fine Diner in Menlo Park
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 3,472 views

Marriage Underachievers
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,706 views

Politics: Empty appeals to "innovation"
By Douglas Moran | 13 comments | 1,629 views

Best High Dives to Watch the Game
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,386 views

It's Dog-O-Ween this Saturday!
By Cathy Kirkman | 2 comments | 886 views