Skip to content

Palo Alto gets ready for lawsuits over construction of new police building

The Palo Alto City Council will consider on Aug. 7 claims against the city from its main construction contractor, Swinerton Builders, and various subcontractors.
New Public Safety Building being built at 250 Sherman Ave in Palo Alto on May 8, 2023. Photo by Katherine Lin.

Palo Alto is bracing for possible litigation over the construction of its new public safety building, a $118 million project that is set to be completed later this year on Sherman Avenue.

The City Council will consider on Aug. 7 claims against the city from its main construction contractor, Swinerton Builders, and various subcontractors. The new building will house the police headquarters as well as the Office of Emergency Services and the Fire Department administration.

The largest and most expensive project in the council's infrastructure plan, the three-story, 50-foot-tall building will include a training room, meeting space, a public plaza and an underground garage. The city has been planning for the new facility for more than two decades after several studies concluded that the existing police headquarters inside City Hall in downtown Palo Alto is both too small and seismically vulnerable.

While the council agenda, which the city released Thursday, July 27, does not specify the nature of the dispute, the city has been working in recent months to resolve numerous construction errors and to address change orders from Swinerton. In May, the City Council approved a new $687,500 contract with the project architect, RossDrulisCuisenbery Architects, to compensate the firm for assisting the city in addressing these errors.

According to the Public Works Department report, these included placements of defective cast-in-place concrete; improper installation of the center skylight, which required its complete removal and reinstallation; and provision of exterior tile that did not conform to the approved tile submittal.

The building also suffered damage during the winter storms, which led to flooding, water infiltration and potential water damage to partially installed roof insulation and roofing membrane, according to the report.

Public Works staff also indicated at that time that the city will "back‐charge the contractor for costs incurred by the design team that are directly caused by construction errors via deductive Change Orders to the construction contract."

While the council agenda that the city released Thursday does not offer any many details about the nature of the dispute, it cites claims pursuant to Public Contract Code 9204, which governs disputes over construction claims. The agenda lists claims from Swinerton, Structures, Inc., CCI Construction, Inc.; Walters & Wolf; WSA; Helix Construction Company; BMC; Sandis; and Northern Services, Inc.


About the Author: Gennady Sheyner

Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before that he covered news and politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut.
Read more
push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks