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Mitchell Park Library close to complete, but legal battle looms

Original post made on Aug 9, 2014

Since a new contractor was brought on last February to finish the long-stalled Mitchell Park Library project, a "night and day" difference in work results is bringing an end in sight for the much maligned project, city officials said at press briefing Friday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 8, 2014, 4:29 PM

Comments (36)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 9, 2014 at 3:57 am

Jim Keenan:

Keep up the good work to recover this project.

I know it is hard when contractor defaults work.

It has to be done and you are doing the best.

Our libraries are great; specially College Terrace one; it feels very relaxing; richly; fits our neighborhood; get solace; all for FREE.

What a great neighborhood - College Terrace!!

Indeed it is Palo Alto; greatest place on earth and specially USA.

Respectfully


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 9, 2014 at 4:07 am

Correction and my apology

it is Jim Keene.

Thanks


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Posted by The Shadow knows...........
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2014 at 9:24 am

This project is following the classic definition of "Six Phases of a Big Project", namely:

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic and Hysteria
4. Hunt for the guilty
5. Punishment of the innocent
6. Reward for the uninvolved

It looks like we are deep in the middle of phase 4. I predict phase 6 will be spectacular, with the future Council members (who were not even on the Council during the project inception) competing for recognition at a grand opening ceremony.

C'est la vie.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by charlie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 9, 2014 at 9:38 am

None of the projects has a happy ending?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2014 at 10:27 am

What a mess!

The idea that a group of local government employees who are not even remotely close to being considered construction industry professionals have been given access to tens of millions of other people's money to use as they see fit--without any cogent oversight, or accountability--has been at the root of this debacle.

Palo Alto government has become overlaid with layers of unaccountable bureaucracy explains the failure for anyone one person to say: "I'm in charge". People look here, and they look there, and no one has a sign on his desk that says: "The Buck Stops Here."

Moreover, the Internet, and personal electronics, has changed the way we read, and acquire information, knowlege, and entertainment. Ten years ago, laptops, smart phones, and e-book readers were just getting a toehold into their general acceptance of distributed information. These days--a great many people have adopted this idea, so that it's harder and harder to see a book being read in public.

This huge building will be little more than a mausoleum to the memory of a period of technology that had a very good run, but whose time is quickly passing.

Relative to the project management of this building--it was a disaster. Unfortunately, the guilty will likely avoid any public scrutiny. Too many people seem to be in love with "government", and don't seem to care if their money is spent wisely, or even if they have been lied to by government officials along the way.

What a mess!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 9, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Keene says the city's "not defensive"? Really? It should be defensive about its poor performance and only shows how little it's learned from its costly mistakes.

"The center of community life is going to move south to Mitchell Park," Keene said." Really? No, the city's just planning to open a long-delayed ridiculously expensive library.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm

"failure for anyone one person to say: "I'm in charge"."

If this project had a Donald Trump-like figure in charge, it would have been finished on time and under budget. But Palo Alto would never tolerate such a figure as Trump (for better or worse). Thus we suffer the consequences of incompetence, and the PA process.

I think the general attitude is that we can afford incompetence and endless process, because we have so much money, and thus we do not really need to get serious.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Ladies/Gentlemen

Give ourselves a break.

We have plenty of library resources in the meantime.

Just to put in perspective; Boeing had promised 787 would roll out in mid 2007; the did not; tried in 2008, it did not come out right; had lot of rework; millions of dollars of penalties. They are still correcting some things as they had two fires on the ground in London and some where in Japan.

Let us do lessons learned. That is the best we can do.
Too much retrospect is not going to make it better.

Again; let us do LESSONS LEARNED; fire the contractor and take him out of Palo Alto procurement system and pick a good one like TURNER if they are in the bay area.

They are dime a dozen in construction business.

Next time we will pick the best one; ask Stanford, they might know.

respectfully


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:30 am

Hopefully the new library will not allow the computers to be used by junior high kids for video games, as they are now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:31 am

I'm looking forward to the library opening. The updated Downtown and College Terrace library projects work beautifully for visitors, creating much nicer spaces for those neighborhoods. The Main Library looks as though it is progressing well.

As a neighbor of Mitchell Park Library, with a family that reads voraciously, I can't wait for the opening. I am also looking forward to the new community spaces that will be in this beautiful facility.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:39 am

Oops. I forgot to mention the sweetly freshened Children's Library. The libraries update was an expansive project, not limited to Mitchell Park. It is easy to forget that renovating and expanding these beloved facilities was also part of the bond measure.

While I use a Kindle sometimes, I still love books and the draw of a library is still irresistible to me. There is something about the tactile experience of books and the community of readers that inhabits libraries that feels wonderful. This will never lose appeal for me. At least, I hope it won't. I use a computer most of my day, but nothing is more relaxing to me than escaping that intensely lit screen to settle into a soft chair to leaf through a good book.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

> I still love books and the draw of a library is
> still irresistible to me

Why not try buying your books. If you feel that way about books that have been paid for by a gun held to the taxpayers' head--maybe you will feel even better when it;s your own money that is being used to acquire the books.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:52 am

> Hopefully the new library will not allow the computers to be used
> by junior high kids for video games, as they are now.

What a total waste of public money, and effort. Movies can be obtained from any number of sources--at home! Why in the world should the public be putting up $75M-$100M to provide a video watching room for teens?

Virtually every home in Palo Alto has an Internet connection. Why should the public library be spending hundreds, perhaps even millions, of dollars a year showing videos?

Clearly--this "library" is not a "library" after all!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

> Boeing had promised 787 would roll out in mid 2007; the did not;
> tried in 2008, it did not come out right;

Boeing perhaps is a good example of how extremely complicated systems can easily run into troubles. Boeing tried a number of new, and innovative, design and manufacturing approaches to this airliner. Some worked, and some did not. What we don't know from the Boeing experience is how Boeing actually dealt with the problems. Did it actually fire managers? Did it cut whole companies acting as contractors loose? The City certainly does not seem to have learned much from the Boeing experience--and it's very unlikely that it will have learned anything from the Mitchell Park experience.

Hopefully--the voters have learned that they can't trust anything that City Hall, or the City Council, has to say about anything.


> Next time we will pick the best one; ask Stanford, they might know.

For someone who claims he should be on the City Council--this person exhibits incredibly little knowledge of how California Muncipal Law operates.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sillly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:21 am

Mr. Reddy posted above:

Give ourselves a break.

We have plenty of library resources in the meantime.

Excuse me. That is not true. For more than two years, we have been deprived of our two biggest libraries. For most of that time we were even deprived on inter-library loans.

Does Mr. Reddy really believe that multiple years of being without most of our library resources is acceptable? Is that the lackadaisical attitude he'd bring to governing?

Why the closed the Main Library while the Mitchell Park library was still under construction and more than two years late is beyond belief.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:30 am

Those of us who have resided here for awhile and paid high property taxes and bonds are more sensitive to waste and poor planning and execution of city projects. Fact.
Palo Alto OFTEN brags of being a leading city; well, here is a colossal failure.Still waiting for someone to acknowledge responsibility and leadership failure and to be fired Oh, forgot, this is the public sector.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

@anonymous synopsis of the situation pretty much says it all.

Thanks.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I miswrote above. The library is two years LATE so we've been without one library for closer to four years. And the city's spent close to $400,000 in legal fees related to the library construction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow knows......
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

@ Anonymous -

Well, while the project was admittedly a mismanaged mess built in the public sector, ironically enough it was the private sector contractor hired in a competitive low bid process as required by California State law who was responsible for most of the mismanagement here.

There's more than enough blame to go around here. Neither the public sector nor the private sector free enterprise system have distinguished themselves on this one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Look at the shiny object
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm

>>> "Keene said he is confident that once everyone gets into the building and sees it, the struggle to construct the building will fade into history."

He hopes! Once tax payers finally see the shiny new object, will they forget it took more than three times longer than the construction of the Empire State Building? Come election time, I know I won't.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:44 pm

> hired in a competitive low bid process as required by California
> State law who was responsible for most of the mismanagement here.

Not necessarily true. California gives Charter cities some leeway here. Palo Alto is a Charter City. Palo Alto could have approached the process a little differently.

Palo Alto is also the owner of the project. It's Palo Alto's responsibility to manage the project, so that if there are clear failure-to-perform situations developing, Palo Alto could red-flag the project, and call in the lawyers sooner than they did.

Palo Alto also had an obligation to provide the selected contractor will all the information it needed to build the project. There is more than enough evidence on the table that Palo Alto did not support the Contractor with the information the Contractor needed to build the project according to the Contract.

Since we don't have all the details from either party--claiming that there is lots of blame to go around is more than premature. We won't know that until the case gets to court, and the can read the court records.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DGN
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:51 pm

City Manager Keene needs to be fired, ASAP. He is defensive, arrogant, unprepared, inarticulate, clueless, and incompetent. What will it take to get him removed as city manager? Who does he report to and who has the ability to fire him? His body language at city council meetings says a lot. He keeps his head down when he speaks at city council meetings. He knows that he is ill prepared and lately he has become short tempered, too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow knows.........
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:52 pm

@ Bob -

Your are partly correct. The deficiency in the plans was an error by the private sector architect, hired by the City to provide expertise they do not have (and shouldn't have) on staff. The City does not employ (nor should they) architects and structural engineers on staff.

The fact that the plans were deficit in that regard is once again the failure of the private sector.

There definitely IS more than enough blame to go around here. It is biased and stereotypical to contend that this is all the fault of incompetent government employees.

City, designer, and contractor all are at fault on this one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow knows......
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

@ DGN -

No disagreement on that one. Keene has been highly successful at delivering exactly what the current Council members - and particularly some of the old guard/"good old boys" there want. Perhaps a new Council will have a different opinion of him.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I would dearly love to hear city officials take responsibility for their mistakes instead of saying, "There, there. You'll forget about it tomorrow."

Where's Keene saying, "We realize the library project cost too much and took too long. We're sorry we've spent almost $400,000 of your money TO DATE on legal fees. We're conducting an internal review of the process. There will be no raises or bonuses for city workers involved. Some may even be fired or disciplined or demoted. We cannot -- and will not -- tolerate this. The buck stops here."

Instead, they refuse to answer questions from reporters like Ms. Diamond who can't get ANY answers from the managers at the Utility, Transportation and Planning Departments since they refuse to talk to her.

We get constantly barraged with mailings from the Utility Dept. saying "Conserve energy" while they ignore the fact that we pay more when we do.

Where's one mailing saying, "Ooops. Mea Culpla. The city wasted XXX gallons of water as the Palo Alto Weekly reported."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 1:24 pm

> The deficiency in the plans was an error by the private sector architect,
> hired by the City to provide expertise they do not have
> (and shouldn't have) on staff.

You are claiming facts that are not clearly in evidence. While you may turn out to be correct, has the City actually produced documentation that establishes the nature, and scope, of this error? And if there really was an error cause by the Architect, why hasn't the City sued them by now?


> The City does not employ (nor should they) architects and structural engineers on staff.

We will part company on this one. The City does hire such people, and most certainly should hire such people, if the City is going to be involved in any building projects. The City is ultimately the owner of any project they want built. To suggest that no one on the P/W staff should be able to read a blue print, or have any idea how a CAD system works would lead to the City's constantly spending money on never-ending layers of bureaucracy which would ultimately end up in never-ending law suits.

If the City didn't hire people which appropriate engineering skills—then when the City Council was presented a project, the blind would be leading the blind. No one in the process would have the slightest idea what might be going on. The Council is more often-than-not comprised of people with no real world skills. Therefore, the P/W people need to have some qualified/certified engineers on Staff.


> The fact that the plans were deficit in that regard is
> once again the failure of the private sector.

The owner is responsible for the project. It's his responsibility to define it, to spec it, to manage the parts of its execution, and to pay for it. To suggest that the owner should be able to say: "I want a big building—now you figure out what I want and build it to my unspecified expectations—or I'll sue you, is delusional. The City's culpability is close to 50%, at least—depending on what we find out when the suits hit the courts.

Unfortunately—there's every reason to believe that the City will seek to have the court records sealed, and/or resolve the matter out-of-court, and beyond the publics' ability to learn the truth.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow knows.....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Bob -

You are incorrect, I do not believe the City has either any Architects or Structural Engineers on staff. Those are specialty skills not needed for the day to day business of the City, and they would command a higher pay rate and benefits (retirement...)than what I want to see my tax dollars being spent on. It is prudent to retain them from the private sector on a case by case basis as needed, and as I understand it that is what all small and mid size Cities do.

What you may be thinking of is that the City does have numerous Professional Engineers on staff in various departments like Public Works and Utilities. However, those are base level skills like civil, mechanical, and so on, not the higher level specialties like structural and architects.

An applicable analogy might be like the difference between your internist/GP and a cardiologist to whom he refers you. If the cardiologist makes a mistake is it the GP's responsibility? Whose liability insurance do you go after? Do you want to have your GP analyze and oversee your cardiological issues?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Shadow, thanks for putting some facts in the way [portion removed.]

I, of course, wish the construction of the library branch I use all the time had gone better. But that ship sailed.

Using comment space to assert that it's a waste of money to build libraries at all is ridiculous on the face of it.

You have only to step into the "temporary" Mitchell Park library to see all the children browsing and checking out books, accompanied by parents who support this.

There is NO substitute for visiting a real library, browsing the shelves, and experiencing that "Ah ha" moment at seeing a book there on something that interests one a lot.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm

First - I have found the Menlo Park library system to be vastly superior to Palo Alto's both in computer lending and in getting printed books.

Second - I have learned the hard way that it is better to use the middle bidder than using the low bidder.

Last - The problems associated with the ugly new library are those of two entities making charges against each other. I have little doubt that both sides are at fault. Hopefully city management will learn from the myriad of problems. I have worked with the city on one major project which has progressed slowly but steadily on the road to fruition. I have found the staff to be very orderly and proficient in this project.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2014 at 5:54 pm

> You are incorrect,

Perhaps.

> I do not believe the City has either
> any Architects or Structural Engineers on staff.

Since when does a belief become the basis for a fact? (Hint--it doesn't.)

> However, those are base level skills like civil, mechanical,
> and so on, not the higher level specialties like structural and architects.

"Base skills"? Really. Wonder what those base-level engineers would have to say about that? What are we paying them for, would you guess?

> An applicable analogy might be like the difference
> between your internist/GP

Not even close. People do not buy products, like building plans, from medical professionals--they purchase opinions.

> Shadow, thanks for putting some facts

Shadow has provided no facts at all. He has made a number of assertions, and claims, that he has failed to back up with anything remotely close to a fact, or anyway to verify his claims.

> Using comment space to assert that it's a waste of money
> to build libraries at all is ridiculous on the face of it.

Suggest that @Sylivia might want to look up that word (ie-comment) in a dictionary some time. (Presumably at a library--as it's doubtful that she has one at home.)

> There is NO substitute for visiting a real library,

Absurd on face value. There are now untold millions of books on-line. Google, Amazon, The Internet Archive, the Library of Congress, just to name a few. Browsing on-line is exactly the same, and a lot quicker, too. It also generally doesn't require any public money to do so.

> You have only to step into the "temporary" Mitchell Park
> library to see all the children browsing

And how many would that be? It's virtually impossible to find a child with a book any more. Most are glued to their cell phones. Maybe it's time to report those parents to Children's Protective Services?

> Hopefully city management will learn from the myriad of problems

So far, there is little evidence of that from any comments originating from City Hall. The P/W Director said in public comments some months back: "I wouldn't have done anything differently."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The Shadow knows.....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2014 at 6:31 pm

@ Bob -

What I say is fact. If you don't believe me you can look it up in the City budget and staffing chart.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Shadow, we should have known better than to feed the troll.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:40 pm

@Sylvia, +1


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Plan checkers
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2014 at 4:09 am

Doesn't the city employ plan checkers to ensure that permitted plans meet the city's building codes?

I seem to recall paying for permits, with the payment predicated on that checking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Bob and other fellow Palo Alto citizens:

Thanks for your comments. I learned a lot of it.

Bob in regards to Boeing 787 delays which has nothing to do with Library construction delays; just to be on the record; here is what happened:
- Boeing chose to outsource major components to partner countries; and the integration of engineering work caused delays/mistakes

- Boeing did not 'fire' any one but reassigned many executives; Allen Mulaly - left for FORD; Scott Carson - a VP retired; Jim Albaugh took over from the Defense side and recovered; retired abruptly last year;

Pat Shanahan; a young engineer/program manager from Defense systems with previous management experience on 757 seemed to have gotten it all together on 787.

So, with good intentions, they are trying hard.

- I suggest we 'trust' that our management has learned all the lessons how to get this project on track.

My comment/Bob's response and my rebuttal:

> Next time we will pick the best one; ask Stanford, they might know.

For someone who claims he should be on the City Council--this person exhibits incredibly little knowledge of how California Muncipal Law operate

Regarding my comment on learning from STANFORD, you got it totally wrong.

There are things you can learn from someone that has similar experience on contractors and builders; there is no law about municipal code; what code??

In aerospace industry, we do that all the time by attending technical conferences sponsored by DoD to learn from each other/reference checks; you know all that..

Bob - do not rush to say that I am asking Stanford to take over this project. Far from true.

For that matter, we should have a lessons LEARNED and document how this project went wrong.

Let me say this:

We live in a beautiful community.

I got up in the morning and parked my car and walked/hiked to Stanford DISH; I got some exercise too.

I got to spend some time at GUNN high school this morning; with the College/Prep staff; you know; GUNN has one of the best facilities I have ever seen.

GUNN admits nearly 50 to UCB and 40 to Stanford.

Palo Alto GUNN high school is heaven on earth.

What are we complaining about?
Construction delays of two libraries.
Please put things in perspective.


I do like libraries; College Terrace library reminds me of Corona Del Mar library in Newport Beach;
but College Terrace beats to it because there is a day care for our children; a nice and cozy park. It is beautiful and heavenly. It heals my soul.

I agree, Menlo Park is great community with a very nice downtown for family life; there are some things we could learn from them.

In regards to 'Bob' commenting on my ability to serve; it is for the citizens to determine; they do not know me yet; neither you Bob. All I ask is to give me an opportunity. Regarding my comment on learning from STANFORD, you got it totally wrong. There are thing you can learn from someone that has similar experience; there is no law about that; In aerospace industry, we do that all the time by attending technical conferences sponsored by DoD etc.,

I am sure the able citizens of Palo Alto have more to contribute on this.

Give our School staff, teachers a warm welcome to our schools next week! In no time we will have our Library finished.

Respectfully






 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sea-SEELAM REDDY
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Corrections-

GUNN admits nearly 50 to UCB and 40 to Stanford. - wrongly worded

correct way to say
GUNN high school seniors acceptance in 2014 to Stanford is 22; UCB is42

highest I have ever seen; Beats University High - near UCLA and Irvine; Whitney in Cerritos etc.,

I apologize for down playing construction delays of libraries.

I am an optimist and think we get through the construction delays; If we do not we will get it fixed.

In the mean time, summer is coming to an end; Our families are enjoying last few days of being with children; wish all the best to children and families to have a great new year of school. I noticed GUNN staff is ready for tomorrow.

Respectfully


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