Rec and Parks rips for $4.5 million in cost overruns in a Portsmouth Square parking garage

The alphabet soup of transit authorities and nonprofits was responsible for a Chinatown parking garage renovation that was completed four years later and had a budget of over $4.5 million, but the city’s auditor blames the Rec and Parks management’s complacency.

We thought the most controversial thing about Portsmouth Square Park in Chinatown these days was the proposed removal of a concrete pedestrian bridge linking it to the Hilton. But what lies beneath the park — a city-owned, four-story, 456-seat parking garage that’s been around for sixty years — is now the source of the finger-pointing. The Chronicle reports on a city audit that found that a Portsmouth Square Parking garage renovation was four years late and $4.5 million on budget compared to the original schedule, and ultimately miscalculated the SF Rec and Parks department for allowing delays and overruns.

“The audit found that the PPPC Board was ill-equipped to effectively manage the renovation project, causing a $4.5 million (52 percent) over budget, to be completed after one year, and a loss of at least $1 million from planned work,” a director of Operations said. Auditing with the SF Comptroller’s Office, Mark de la Rosa said in a review, according to the Chronicle. “As the project owner, Rec & Park was responsible for overseeing the garage renovation project on behalf of the city, a responsibility that cannot be delegated.”

Renovation was organized with several chefs in the kitchen. In addition to Rec and Parks (which they own on paper, since there’s a park on top), the garage is under the jurisdiction of the MTA because it is a city-owned plot. But the land is overseen by the Portsmouth Plaza Parking Corporation (PPPC), whose board and advisory board consists of such figures as Chinatown movers and shakers such as Lion’s Den owner Stephen Lee, and Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory owner Kevin Chan.

The project was scheduled to begin in December 2014 (started two and a half years late) and was scheduled for completion in June 2016 (completed in April 2020). Indicating more chaos, the Chronicle notes that it “ended up going through three general contractors before it was finally deemed complete in April 2020, after the scope of work was significantly scaled back”.

Rec and Parks’ general manager, Phil Ginsburg, responded to Chronicle’s questions, but mostly about how they would handle future oversight. According to the Chronicle, “Ginsburg said he has already complied with recommendations to improve garage stewardship.” He also stated that PPPC will no longer operate any capital improvement projects and that it will not be allowed to enter into any contracts without prior approval from Rec & Park.

And there will likely be more controversy coming to Portsmouth Square, once again, regarding this overhead pedestrian bridge. As Hudline reported in January, plans are taking shape to demolish the underused and despised footbridge — but now there may be litigation over who should pay for it, the Hilton across the street, or the city.

Related: Giant tiger statues ring in the Year of the Tiger all over San Francisco [SFist]

Photo: Steve D. via Yelp

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