The Palos Verdes Estates (PVE) City Council approved a $200,000 Beautification and (Parkland/Trails) Enhancement Fund during their past two-year budget in mid 2012. To decide on projects for this fund, the Parklands Committee reviewed dozens of submittals. Their top recommendation was to provide funding for the long ignored Parklands, primarily through trail enhancement and also some habitat restoration. Secondarily, they recommended six entrance projects in PVE. The combined budgets of the entrance projects were about $150,000 and the budget for the Parklands/Trails enhancement project was about $50,000.
When the new 2014-16 budget was being reviewed, it was discovered that there were cost overruns with some of the above noted entrance projects. As a result, a City staff report dated 5-13-2014 (accessible here) requested an additional $30,000 to complete three entrances. It recognized that costs exceeded the original $200,000 budget, but frankly, did not specifically address the amount of the excessive costs on just three projects. A few months later on 10-28-14, a total of $36,500 was requested, and an additional amount of $14,000, was requested for just one of these entrances - located on Granvia Altamira near Via Cerritos. Instead of excessive costs of $30,000 as mentioned in the earlier report, the actual amount of cost overruns on three projects with was $126,600. This is summarized on the accompanying table. To make up for this difference, the budgets for three projects were slashed, and the Parkland/trails enhancement project was eliminated. A donation of $15,000 also helped reduce the cost deficits associated with this $200,000 fund.
The entrance project that had the greatest cost overruns, which will cost about $136,880 and far more than its budget of $50,000, was the Granvia Altamira entrance project near Hawthorne Blvd. Apparently, the cost to create the island with concrete curbs was greatly not only under estimated, but the design was faulty and needed a total of $36,500 to tear out and redo some portions of the entrance island. In addition, there were cost overruns of about $21,000 on the other Granvia project at Montemalaga Drive, largely due to an excessive amount of boulders and stones used, which were not included on the initial plan. (Please see this plan, as well as those for the other project here.) This path does not lead anywhere and actually blocks access to the Altamira Path. Neither the City Council nor the Parklands Committee appear to have addressed oversight and other issues that have allowed the City staff to incur cost overruns of $95,000 on these two projects. Most importantly, are these projects worth about $175,000, which caused the elimination of any funds for Parklands/trail enhancement? Please see the Montemalaga Entrance Photos, including before and after views, and let us know your thoughts.
Another concern with the cost overruns is that it creates a large disparity in the benefits among the four neighborhoods in PVE. Originally, the budgets for each neighborhood ranged from $23,000 to $80,000. However, if the projects are funded as the City staff proposes, Montemalaga will receive $175,555, Lunada Bay obtains $61,810, Valmonte is given only $6,477 and Malaga Cove receives nothing. Therefore, the Council should take some actions so that the staff will not be able to essentially redistribute funds to benefit some neighborhoods more than others, contrary to the recommendations of the Parklands Committee, which was approved by the Council.
In addition, some clarification is needed that appears to justify the taking of Parkland "trail enhancement funds" stated on page 2 of the staff report for other project cost overruns because trail standards and policies were not established. However, more substantial trail projects on the PV Drive North and West medians were already previously completed a decade earlier. So, it was previously established that trail PVE could complete trail or other Parklands work without new trail policies or standards. Alternatively, these Parkland enhancement funds could have been simply reserved and available for use later this year, as the new Parklands Use Policy was approved this past spring. So, this explanation is convenient, but not necessarily accurate.
The Parklands Committee met on August 11th, to Review the Landscape plans at the Montemalaga Entrance projects and decided to approve the City staff request to fund an additional $30,000, primarily for the cost overruns primarily associated with these two projects. This committee basically didn't believe it would be appropriate to leave these projects unfinished and therefore had little alternative other than approve the request. However, there was no attempt to; provide alternative funding by possibly selling some of the boulders used in one project, reduce costs by modifying the landscaping (such as eliminating several trees on one island and adding ground cover or shrubs instead) or divert funds from other projects. Essentially no efforts were made to try to reestablish funding for Parklands/trail enhancement that were eliminated. The Parklands Committee recognized that these Parkland funds were eliminated, but simply expressed hope that new funding could be provided once the process to apply for Parkland improvements was established, expected in October, 2014.
In summary, the Beautification and Enhancement Fund was funded with $200,000 two years ago from tax payer funds, will cost about $245,000, yet will not fund $70,000 in projects recommended by the Parklands Committee because of cost overruns, including the elimination of some $50,000 for Parklands/trail enhancement. With what seems to be the abuse and misuse of handling the project costs for this fund, it would seem that better accountability and more oversight is needed, yet this is apparently not even being discussed, let alone demanded. If you are concerned with the way the City of Palos Verdes Estates is spending money, and also the lack of nearly any money allocated Parklands, please submit a letter about this matter to the City Council. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact us at email@example.com. If no one cares or expresses their discontent for irresponsible city spending, there is little incentive for change and the PVE Parklands and trails will continue to be neglected.