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Pact to Build Police Facility Approved

L.A. panel OKs the $231.3-million contract with Tutor-Saliba despite concerns about cost and few minority subcontractors.

September 28, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Public Works Board approved a $231.3-million contract Wednesday for construction of a police headquarters, despite complaints that the cost was far above budget and that the winning bidder is using few minority and no women subcontractors.

The board was left with little choice, given that Tutor-Saliba Corp. was the only company to bid on the massive project, to be built downtown at 100 W. 1st St.

Before seeking bids, City Engineer Gary Moore estimated that the 11-story project would cost $200 million, but the firm's offer was $243 million.

Moore said his office negotiated the price to $225 million, but then added $6 million for landscaping on the site, across from City Hall.

"It's very important this be a very attractive area around the new police headquarters. There will be a substantial amount of trees," Moore told the board, adding that the building is "very needed."

Board Chairwoman Cynthia Ruiz said the project's higher-than-expected price was not her only concern.

Ruiz and board member Valerie Shaw said they were bothered that Tutor-Saliba was providing only 3.48% of the project to minority subcontractors and that none of the project was going to a woman-owned subcontracting company.

"Obviously the numbers concern me, especially with the women business enterprises at zero participation," Ruiz said. "At a project this size, it's just kind of mind-boggling to me that we have no women businesses participating at all and very low participation by the minority businesses."

Shaw said she would like to see the minority business participation at 10%.

Moore said the city tried to include minority- and women- owned businesses, sending notices to 600 subcontractors, and said Tutor-Saliba received a high score on its bid for making a good-faith effort.

Jack Frost, a senior vice president for the bidder, told the board that his firm tried to get more involvement, but speculated that such subcontractors were busy with other projects.

"I don't believe the percentage is an indicator of effort on the bid," he said. "I think it's an indicator more of how much work is going on in the city. There is a tremendous amount of work going on."

That didn't wash with John W. Murray Jr., a former board member now on the Metropolitan Water District board.

Murray said Tutor-Saliba should have recruited and worked more with minority-and women-owned firms years ago.

"Tutor-Saliba has been in this business and feeding at the public trough for decades," Murray told the board. "It's not about outreach. What it's about is Tutor-Saliba could have identified and home-grown minority contractors ... years ago."

Murray also predicted that any future changes in the project probably would drive the cost up.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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