San Marino Stalls Plans for Restroom Remodel in Park

The City Council tentatively will consider options for one of Lacy Park’s restrooms at its next meeting, continuing a saga dating to 2014 on how to go about bringing the building into the 21st century.
The current plan, as presented by Parks and Public Works Director and City Engineer Michael Throne, calls for a $385,200 budget, including a 10% contingency, most of which has already been appropriated. However, amid calls for savings, Throne and City Manager Marcella Marlowe plan on coming back to the City Council with a few options this month.
Those options include a reduction of material quality or outright demolishing the current building and starting over. Assuming the city substantially changes its plans, it will have to rebid this project, as the city already has received bids from construction firms.
“I know you’ve done a lot of work, but I think a lot of residents here are concerned about the budget,” said Mayor Dr. Richard Sun, speaking to Throne at last week’s City Council meeting.
As presented, Throne plans on replacing the flat roof with a hip roof design, a type of roof where the sides all slope downward; redoing the walls to be stucco; and recreating the interior to reflect the original 1920s design.
For years, half of the building has been used for storage, but it tentatively will be opened for restroom use as part of this remodel and would be made handicap-accessible.
“The storage area is going to be removed and replaced,” Throne explained. “The usable area of the facility is going to increase quite dramatically.”
However, Throne did not shy away from the fact that he anticipated issues related to old water supply and sewage connections during the project.
“This project is not without its challenges,” he said. “We’re trying to squeeze a whole lot more facility into an existing building. Any remodeling project is fraught with uncertainties. It’s old. Things that were done in the day, many times you don’t know what you’re going to find until you find it.
“We’re adding a lot more fixture units to it, so there is a potential that the water service to this facility may need to be improved so that more than one service unit may be used at a time,” Throne added.
Councilman Steve Talt asked Throne, who recently began his job in San Marino, what he might have done differently had he started this project from scratch instead of inheriting a compilation of work by several predecessors. Throne said he would have weighed several factors in choosing whether to renovate or start from scratch and emphasized he would put his best foot forward with whatever was asked of him.
“This is a very utilitarian structure,” he said. “I would definitely — if the council as interested in investigating other options — go out and survey users and see what the vision is of the community. It is a very special place, Lacy Park, and what I want to make sure we’re doing at Public Works is satisfying the residents.”
Councilman Dr. Steven Huang had his own concerns about the project, pointing out that at 1,072 square feet, the project was set to cost cents shy of $360 per square foot. Throne acknowledged the high cost, considering what the project is, but he pointed out that state law required governments to pay a prevailing labor wage and added that he had selected more durable materials given the nature of the project.
“One consideration is that this is a commercial restroom, so it is used and abused quite significantly,” he said.
Residents in the audience bemoaned the sentiment of approving a project simply because it was getting long in the tooth and encouraged the City Council to keep taking a harder look at this project, especially considering the turnover throughout its existence.
One resident, Joyce Batnij, said a contractor relative of hers was floored by the estimated cost of this project “even for very high-end finishes.” She also suggested bidding it out alongside the restoration of another restroom in Lacy Park that is being renovated as a historic landmark.
“Perhaps you would enjoy some savings if you put both projects up for bid,” she said.

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