CLOSER LOOK: A crew works on the fountain at Ken Genser Square in front of City Hall on Tuesday. The park is slated to open in October. (Daniel Archuleta
CLOSER LOOK: A crew works on the fountain at Ken Genser Square in front of City Hall on Tuesday. The park is slated to open in October. (Daniel Archuleta

CITY HALL — With just weeks remaining before the opening of two, multi-million-dollar parks in the Civic Center, there’s concern that a significant water feature may not be ready for prime-time.

Where City Hall sees an aesthetic problem, one concerned resident sees a leak and a possible drain on city coffers.

Construction for Tongva Park, a 6-acre site located between Ocean Avenue and Main Street, and the 1-acre Ken Genser Square in front of City Hall started last year.

David Garden, a Santa Monica resident, said the multi-tiered fountain at Genser Square seems to have leakage problems. He’s been walking by the Civic Center project almost every day for the last year and has watched the construction progress.

In April, he said the water was turned on in the fountain and since then, it’s been flowing out of places it wasn’t supposed to.

In a letter to the Santa Monica Daily Press last month, Garden said he’s noticed the contractor, W.E. O’Neil Construction Co., has attempted numerous techniques to stem the leaks from the precast top sections, which trickle down the supporting wall structures.

“It appears that there might be a serious design flaw in the fountain or a serious mistake in the construction assembly process,” Garden wrote in the letter. He said he wondered if the problem was going to delay the opening of the entire park.

City officials said Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square are slated to open as scheduled next month.

The fencing around Tongva Park will come down the week after Labor Day, Martin Pastucha, director of public works for City Hall, said. Both parks cost $42.3 million to construct, he said.

City officials contend there isn’t a leakage problem, rather it’s an aesthetic issue. Pastucha said it was a misnomer for Garden to call it a “leaking fountain.”

“The water is all going to the same place,” Pastcuha said. “It’s not like it’s going outside the fountain area.”

He said the contractor told city officials the fountain work will be done by the middle of September.

The fountain work is “pretty self-contained,” Pastucha said. “The contractor is working on sealing the lines and the inside to stop the leaking. It essentially was an injection process in between the layers that fills the voids and reseal and replaster and seal up the fountain itself.”

Pastucha said there is a one year warranty on the construction of the park and water feature by the builder, who is obligated to repair items that aren’t functioning as designed. The contractor has the responsibility to deliver a product that is fully functioning and free of defects to City Hall, Pastucha said.

Garden said he wrote a letter to the City Council this week so it could be made aware of the situation.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the city inspectors. They keep trying all these different techniques,” Garden said.

In his letter to the council, Garden wrote during the last 30 days, the contractor has added at least two different varieties of backyard-grade sodium silicate pool leak fixing products to the fountain. Garden wrote in the letter both of these products are listed and sold to the general public for minor leak repair in hot tub, spa and pool plumbing.

Garden said he didn’t want to see tax dollars wasted if the problem persists.

“This situation seems like a giant mess and one that might not be possible to fix since water always likes to take the lowest path of least resistance,” Garden said. “It seems that a quick fix of epoxy or grout will be just that, a quick fix to get the city to sign off on the contract and leave us taxpayers with our fingers in the dike.”

Pastucha said City Hall is responsible for maintenance and operation of all public facilities in the city and will be responsible for the normal operational and maintenance costs of the water feature.

The grand opening of Tongva Park/Ken Genser Square is scheduled for Oct. 19.

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