September 2017 President’s Message by Cindy Towles

It seems that the on August 28th the County came to the HARD Board to talk about changes in the design for our Community Center.  The $22M project budget consisted of $15M construction costs plus $7M “soft costs and contingency” budget (design plus the cost of the things that could go wrong which no one expects, or costs that unexpectedly rise).

The winning (lowest?  only?) construction bid came in at $18.8M, in excess of the $15M, and that was after some of the bells & whistles had been “value engineered” or “VE”d out of the design.  Since it seems that there are no additional funds to be had for this project, the “VE”-ing of the design was completely appropriate, in this case, and kind of standard for the industry (which I worked in for several years).   But, apparently, no bidder was willing to build the already‑VE’d design for the target budget.  It appears that either the County did not anticipate the construction costs rising so much in the years the project was delayed, or the architects undervalued what it would cost to construct their design, or a combination of both; and they came to present their case before HARD.

Apparently the aforementioned “VE” was not enough and they now propose further cuts such as reducing the number of MP rooms, simplifying the architectural finishes and to re-evaluate the programming for the center, meaning to look at what we want to use the center for NOW, as opposed to whenever the design process started.   (Not a bad idea, considering it was one of the main reasons HARD hired Debbie Hernandez.   Why not let her do her job?) Other things on the chopping block were: moving the HVAC away from zero net energy, simplification of garden and structure design (again, “less fancy”), and simplification of Exterior Building Design (getting rid of metal wall panels, roof pop-ups).

Also up for reduction is designing to LEED Gold. The greater the level of certification, the higher upfront capital costs; the lower certification levels for most buildings add up to 4 percent in design and construction costs (which are offset by lower operating costs) compared to a standard building while projects reaching for net zero can cost up to 13 percent more. Designing to LEED Silver Certification, which is the HARD standard, which would save additional money.

BUT, in order to get the construction budget down to $15M, the county is now considering some pretty drastic cuts that they had not previously considered, such as: making the building square footage smaller (by eliminating the Boston Road wing that would have sat on land purchased specifically by HARD for that purpose), program elements, and general quality of design.

Those were a little hard to swallow for most of your CCA Board, particularly the reduction of the square footage.

Don’t get me wrong; we are grateful to be finally getting a community center, but we had been promised certain things, and it feels like they are being taken away from us, and through no fault of our own.

As of this writing, we are attempting to get this on the agenda for this month’s Unincorporated Services Meeting, but even if we don’t get it on the agenda, we are still allowed to speak for 3 minutes on whatever we want, and so are you.   We urge you to come out and speak your mind at the meeting about this urgent development.

The Unincorporated Services meeting should be Wednesday September 27 at 6:30pm, at either the Castro Valley Library or the new San Lorenzo Library (TBD).   Come on out and make your voice heard.

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