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VACC delayed by ongoing dispute

The representative’s open letter chronicles the delays to Valley College’s long awaited center.

By Isaac Dektor, Editor-in-Chief

Construction workers roll out sheets of carpet for flooring at the Main Stage Theatre in the Valley Academic and Cultural Center at Los Angeles Valley College on October 18, 2022. The decorative wood panels seen on the walls were made from the trees cut down by the construction project. (Griffin O'Rourke | Valley Star)

Assemblyperson Lisa Calderon published an open letter calling for a public audit of the LACCD’s construction management practices amid ongoing litigation between Pinner Construction and the district.

The representative’s letter comes in the wake of a racketeering allegation against the LACCD in which a third party contractor claims district representatives overseeing the construction of Valley College’s Valley Academic and Cultural Center “maliciously conspired to delay the project.” Pinner filed the complaint after being awarded $3.2 million in damages by an independent arbitrator who found the district at fault for severe delays to the construction of the 83 foot walls running from the basement to the roof of the main stage theater.

“One of the consultants insisted on using pieces of reinforcing steel more than three times taller than the industry standard and much higher than what contractors said were necessary under the design,” says the statement from Calderon’s office. “The consultants insisted on the unusual design despite warnings from the contractor (Pinner construction) that it would delay the project for about 13 months and increase costs by $16 million.”

According to multiple general contractors unaffiliated with the litigation in addition to the arbiter’s findings, vertical splicing, or the joining of reinforcing steel, on tall wall construction is common practice in the industry. Over five years ago, a construction change directive, that would have allowed Pinner to build the walls per standard practice, was pending Department of State Architect approval.

According to the lawsuit, the problem ossified in 2017 when the department returned the change directive to the district because it was incomplete and district representatives failed to resubmit it.

However, complications to the state-of-the-art complex predate Pinner breaking ground. The original architect of record, a company called Ehrlich, opted out of the project after the district would not agree to pay an additional fee according to a district spokesperson. This created a situation in which third party contractors placed their bids and created baseline schedules without having adequate resources to do so.

Pinner determined the project would take 851 days with costs not to exceed roughly $78.5 million, but would not be held liable to delays arising out of errors and omissions to design. The independent arbitrator found that district representatives erroneously interpreted design drawings and, as a result, held it primarily responsible.

Simon Rees, the original structural engineer of record, offered testimony that supported Pinner’s claim.

“I have not seen anything that would prohibit the introduction of splicing in the enforcement approved through the appropriate process,” testified Rees.

The hamstrung and highly anticipated art complex boasts two theaters, a screening room, classrooms and offices — all cutting edge facilities. The project is highly anticipated, as theater students and the media arts program are left without their own facilities, awaiting the center to open its doors. But the delays may not be over yet.

Pinner has multiple pending claims for damages amounting to roughly $26 million in addition to its accusation of racketeering by district representatives. Contractors are currently reinstalling exterior paneling around the back facing side of the building as directed by the district. While the district has not offered sufficient reasoning for the reinstallation, as the paneling was put in place per the manufacturer's specifications, the third party contractor estimates the decision to further delay the project by 200 days.


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