San Jose City Takes Back the Viet Heritage Garden Project

In the latest memo issued by the Park & Recreational Department earlier this month, San Jose City announced that it will take over the Viet Heritage Garden Project from  the Viet Heritage Society headed by Dr. Ngai Nguyen..

The project was often touted by former Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen as one of her accomplishments during her 9 years in City Council.  Nguyen was elected in November, 2005 in a special election.  After 10 under the leadership of her most ardent patron, Dr. Ngai Nguyen, the project was found to be  mismanaged according to the memorandum.   The garden is unusable at its current state with muddy and weedy ground surrounding  a partial complete Imperial Gate and an unfinished lotus pond.  The garden is currently fenced to prevent vandalism.

_____________________________________

MEMORANDUM
Date: February 2, 2016
To: Honorable Mayor and City Council



                                                             INFORMATION

This memo will serve to update the City Council and community on the status of the Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Gardens Project ("Project"). On September 26, 2000, City Council approved an amendment to the Kelley Park Master Plan to include the Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Garden.  The Garden Master Plan calls for the construction of a four acre garden where Vietnamese culture, history, art and family traditions can be shared within the larger community.

On April 12, 2005 the City Council approved an agreement between the City and the Viet Heritage Society (VHS) for the development, operation and maintenance of the Project. The original agreement provided funding up to $1,080,000 to the VHS toward design and construction of Phase I of the Project. Subsequent amendments between 2006 and 2011 increased the total contribution to $1,830,000, extended the time to complete the work, and  changed the phasing plan.

The VHS began construction of Phase la of the Project in May 2011. The scope of work included sidewalk improvements, grading, utilities, a 57-space parking area, entry area, Imperial main gate, central plaza, lotus pond, limited landscape, storm water management and associated infrastructure.

Construction work is no longer occurring at the site and the project is not yet complete. One extended delay was related to non-conforming construction of the main gate. Today the site is secured with chain link fencing and subject to vandalism, graffiti, dumping and encampments.

The City began compliance review of the agreement with VHS to gain an understanding of roles, responsibilities and financial obligations of each pretty. The focus was twofold: how the construction process resulted in an incomplete project; and verification that public money was expended on the Project as intended.


The VHS was responsible for oversight and management of the construction project under the terms of the agreement. Staff has reviewed the bid, award and construction administration phases of work and early findings are that it is likely that the project could have been managed more effectively by the VHS. The project remains incomplete and fresher investigation into the construction phase of work is ongoing.

City staff has reviewed available records and documents related to the Project, including financial records of the VHS. As per the term of the agreement between the City and VHS and amendments, the City paid VHS a total of $1,050,000 toward design and construction of the Project between the years 2006-2012.

Other public funders include the County of Santa Clara and the State of California. Private donations received by the VHS funded the gap of almost $1 million between the total costs of the Project and the amount of public funding received.

Public funding and expenditure by the VHS are as follows:

Public Funding                  Source

$100.000                        Santa Clara County
$1,300,000                     State of California
$1,130,000                     City of San Jose
$2,530,000                     Total Income from Public


Expenses Paid byVHS        Purpose

$850,000                         Design Phase
$2,670,800                      Construction Phase
$3,520,800                      Total Expenses Paid by VHS for Project

Based on review of available records, we can confirm that the public funding was spent on the project.  However, it also appears that the project could have been managed more effectively, resulting in an incomplete project.

Currently, the City has $700,000 remaining in the Capital Improvement Program Budget for this project. Staff has agreed with VHS that the City’s Public Works Department will utilize this remaining budget to complete Phase I of the project to make it usable for the public.

This will include items such as site security fencing, decomposed granite plaza, corrective work on electrical lighting, irrigation and main gate roof, and stabilize partially constructed lotus pond for temporary use as a stage pending further site development.

Staff has begun design work, and anticipates construction to begin in summer 2016 and be completed in fall 2016.

It is anticipated that any additional improvements to the Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Gardens would be constructed by the City, and planned as funding is provided by the community.


As part of the Mayor’s Budget Message in 2015-16, $200,000 was set aside over two fiscal years to fund a feasibility study for a Vietnamese Community Center. The study will include establishing an architectural program for the building, community outreach and site selection. Kelley Park. and the Vietnamese Cultural Heritage Gardens are priority areas for location of any future community center.

Outreach will begin with a meeting to be held on February 25, 2016,at the Firehouse, History Park in Kelley Park from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

/s/
Angel Rios, Jr.
Director, Department of Parks, Recreation
and Neighborhood Services

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