CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER
By David Horowitz
Fifty-five children who spend their weekdays at City College’s child development program will be temporarily relocated from the program’s four Orfalea Family Center buildings into a two-bungalow facility behind Rosenberg Library in August.
Although the Orfalea Family Center’s interiors are exceptionally well-maintained, the buildings’ outer walls are so extensively corroded that the facility has been deemed unsafe. As a consequence, the program’s children and staff are being moved into a space about half its current size.
“It’s a really sad story because it was pretty avoidable, but the rust problem has ruined the whole building,” Family Center project coordinator Judith Hearst said.
In addition to serving as a preschool for children 18 months to 5 years old from low-income families, the program trains students of City College’s child development department.
The preschool is vital to many parents and children. Former City College student David Saenz, who works and studies full time, has been taking Vida to the preschool since she was 18 months old in 2012, and now she’s prepared to graduate from the program.
“The child development program helped us a lot because they saw our income and situation and saw we were full-time students, and they didn’t charge us,” Saenz said. “They’re great. The teachers are great… It helped us so much—so much—and we’re really sad that our child will have to leave.”
Hunt Construction Lawsuit
San Francisco Community College District contracted the Hunt Construction Group in 2005 to build the center. According to the contract, Hunt would be held legally responsible for property damage and losses resulting from negligence by the subcontractor Project Frog and its parent company MKThink.
A previous edition of The Guardsman disclosed that the district received a report in 2011 determining that the Orfalea Family Center’s exterior corrosion was a direct result of negligent construction.
After numerous requests that Hunt and its subcontractors fix the corrosion, the district filed a complaint in September 2013 with the Superior Court of San Francisco.
Hunt denied liability in January 2014, responding that the school “breached its obligation to properly maintain the facility.” Hunt and its subcontractors thereby refused to fix the rust or any issues related to work done under the contract.
The center was inspected in November 2014 and the district and Hunt Construction Group are set to go to trial this June.
Hunt’s paralegal in the case, Joyce Zorn, said she was “not allowed to give any comment or anything.”
“I’m worried because land space will be really small. Everybody kind of worries about it because all of a sudden we have to cram into one area.”
—Child Development Center Chef Tai Do
The center’s exterior has rusted so much in the salty breeze off the Pacific that neighbors complain about how terrible it looks. Large paint flakes fall off the buildings’ outer walls and sometimes fall on children.
Furthermore, panels intended to protect the four buildings’ exteriors have corroded and are so flimsy they fall off, leaving holes in and underneath the buildings’ outer walls. Animals occasionally burrow into these holes and die inside them, soon causing putrid odors which Hearst said are responsible for making children sick.
Twenty-four pre-school children play and laugh, running along the spacious playground of the Orfalea Family Center on Ocean Campus’s northern outskirts.
Inside a roomy building, 14 children, ages 1 to 4, nap near each other as three teachers watch them in silence. The clean room smells like soup, crayons and freshly-done laundry.
A child stirs in her sleep and Lisa Picot, one of her teachers, responds by stroking the girl’s head tenderly.
No one will have access to Orfalea Family Center’s four buildings, two playgrounds or garden next semester. However, child development department chair Kathleen White assured that no children, faculty or staff will be cut from the program because of space issues, and the new location will also have a playground and a garden.
Bungalows Will Be Smaller
The child development program will be moved into two one-story buildings, which may not suitably accommodate the 55 children and 15 faculty and staff members of the Orfalea Family Center.
“I’m worried because land space will be really small. Everybody kind of worries about it because all of a sudden we have to cram into one area,” the preschool’s chef Tai Do said.
Both locations have parking issues but these may be worse at the new bungalows.
Parents who currently take the 43 Masonic bus directly to the Orfalea Family Center will have to walk their children farther each morning to the new location.
“I just am moved by how far parents will go to bring their children here. Sometimes, they’ll take three buses and travel from another city to bring them here,” Picot said.
Contact a reporter
Send an email to: David Horowitz