Harsh Critique of Massive Community College Building Effort

February 28, 2011

Two articles in the Los Angeles Times offer a devastating critique of how the Los Angeles Community College District has managed a series of massive bond issues (total of $5.7 billion) for construction in the community college system. While the articles note the construction of some key buildings to meet pressing needs, they also note example after example of poorly planned or poorly executed facilities. One article focuses on these flaws, identifying such problems as heating and cooling units installed upside down, uneven steps, defective plumbing and ceiling tiles that would not withstand an earthquake.

Further, the article details numerous other cases where major spending on planning and designing facilities ended up being a waste as officials decided not to build those facilities. Other examples of questionable spending in the article include funds for a feng shui expert ($250 an hour) and $350,000 on video production (including chartered helicopters for aerial shots) to produce public relations material on the construction campaign. Larry Eisenberg, head of the building effort, defended it to the Times, but e-mail messages he sent that were obtained by the the newspaper suggested that he too sees serious problems. In one e-mail, he wrote, "Our new buildings are fundamentally flawed.... We cannot control lighting systems, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems, security systems, building management systems, etc. We have buildings that leak.... We are opening buildings that do not work at the most fundamental level."

The second article details donations by companies that have won contracts for the facilities to the campaigns of those elected as trustees of the district and to the campaigns on behalf of the bond measures.

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