From cabin to castle - Page 2

Fuzzy math raises concerns about Camp Mather and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department

That attachment includes five capital-need figures: $9.4 million for all cabin buildings, $7.8 million for all other buildings, $16.2 million for the park site, $2.6 million for bathing facilities, and $479,971 for storage structures — a total of $36.6 million. It also includes a second column with "facility value" figures, which differ little from the first column, but it does not include an explanation of the numbers or what they're derived from, other than "COMET data," which stands for Condition Management Estimation Technology.

We pushed for and ultimately received a fuller account of that data and a spreadsheet assigning repair and replacement costs to facilities all over Camp Mather. But that only raised more questions for which we still haven't received good answers.

The COMET data indicated that some of the simple wooden cabins, which are essentially shacks with no foundation or plumbing, would cost up to $199,068 to replace, more than the price of building a large single-family home. This is in stark contrast to a 2003 study the department commissioned from Bay Area Economics, which estimated the cost of each cabin at about $16,000. There was no explanation in the document for such astronomical figures.

"Most campers would be distressed to come to camp and find all the historic cabins completely revamped," Robin Sherrer, president of the Friends of Camp Mather, told the Guardian.

When asked to justify and explain the numbers, Dennis talked about "escautf8g contingency factors" and used other bureaucratic jargon but was unable to simply say why a $16,000 cabin would suddenly cost $200,000. But we did learn the COMET data had come from a study by the local firm 3D/I.

We asked for that study, but Dennis said the department didn't have it. Any day now, Dennis said, 3D/I will be giving the department "10 huge binders" of data it developed for various Rec and Park properties from November 2006 to January 2007. Officials will then process that data to present to the Rec and Park Commission in May or June. It is interesting to note that 3D/I also computed the data for a long list of Rec and Park projects, not just Camp Mather.

Among the other capital needs the department is claiming: almost $100 million for the yacht harbor, $102 million for a recreation center, $150 million for playgrounds, and a whopping $572 million for Golden Gate Park.

That list was scheduled to go to the Recreation and Park Commission on March 15 to support a discussion of the $150 million general-obligation bond that the department is seeking, but the list was pulled at the last minute because it needs more documentation.

As Dennis told us, "The president of the commission had it pulled because it was a little sparse." *