Several San Dieguito Union High School District construction projects to begin next year

The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) plans to begin construction on several Prop AA projects in summer 2017.

The four new campus upgrades include Torrey Pines High School’s new performing arts center, culinary arts classroom modernization and parking lot improvements set to be complete in March of 2019; a second classroom building at Pacific Trails Middle School set to be complete by August 2018; San Dieguito High School Academy’s English and social sciences classroom building targeting a March 2019 completion date; and Oak Crest Middle School’s science classroom, improvements to Crest Hall and the administration building with work completed in August 2018.

Oak Crest’s renovation includes repairs from the fire on campus in late October and will be paid for with a combination of Prop AA and insurance funds.

The SDUHSD board unanimously approved using a lease-leaseback method to build the new projects at its Dec. 8 meeting. With the lease-leaseback method, a school district has the flexibility to select a contractor not just by the lowest bid, but on the ability to complete the project. The property is then leased to the contractor, usually for a low amount. The contractor then builds the project and leases the property back to the school district.

After funding was locked down in June, the district reviewed 10 firms that responded to its request for qualifications for construction services in August. Of those, six were selected: McCarthy, Erickson Hall, Balfour Beatty, C.W. Driver, Barnhart-Reese and Level-10 Construction. Interim Superintendent Eric Dill said in selecting companies, they look at experience, track records and the ability to bring in sufficient, local staff.

While the current law does not require competitive bidding, SDUHSD has always issued requests for proposals for construction managers and has conducted a competitive process to select one. There is also a competitive process with lease-leaseback that is built into the contract — the construction manager receives three to five bids per subcontractor trade and the district requires that they select the lowest bidder.

Going into the constriction contract, the district agrees on the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) amount they are going to pay and the construction company has the incentive to get the project done on time.

At the Dec. 8 meeting, the board approved guaranteed maximum prices of $22 million for the Torrey Pines project; $14.6 million for Pacific Trails; $25.6 million for San Dieguito; and $14.5 million for the Oak Crest improvements.

In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law on lease-leaseback programs that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The bill deletes the language that a school district can enter into a lease-leaseback method “without advertising for bid” and replaces it with a competitive bid process. School boards must also adopt criteria, or a scorecard, to determine what gives the district “best value.”

“Our process looks quite similar to the what is outlined in the new regulations,” Dill said, noting the only difference was requirements for sealed bids costs and the pre-established scorecards.

If the district did not approve the projects at the Dec. 8 meeting, the new regulations would go into effect and they would have to begin the whole process again which they have been working on since July. There would also be a risk for an escalation in project costs as well as a delay in construction.

SDUHSD Trustee John Salazar voiced concerns about liability because the district is aware of the new law and appears to be trying to get projects in before it takes effect.

Dill said he is not concerned about liability and SDUHSD President Amy Herman said she believes the district has done its due diligence in choosing the construction companies.

“The new regulation codifies our existing best practice,” Dill said, noting they they have always required the low-bid process that wasn’t part of the existing lease-leaseback regulations.

The district’s next round of projects will include the new processes, Dill said.