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Playground Correspondence1

29-May-2010 [74]

• Playground state-of-good-repair and CSA

Playground Correspondence

July 2, 2008
From: Daniel McLaughlin, Project Manager, Construction OperationsConstruction Management/Capital Project SectionParks Development & Infrastructure Management, to Ward 18 Councillor Adam Giambrone:

Good Day Councillor,

Further to our meeting this spring regarding the sequence and schedule of future playground projects in your ward, we have compiled the information gathered through our condition and CSA compliance audits. The details are included in the attached table. In summary, we have determined that the senior play structure at Dufferin Grove is to be replaced with equipment that meet the CSA guidelines for playgrounds. The main issues being that the existing equipment does not meet the standard and potentially expose users to risk and the City to liability in the event of an injury. This project is currently included in the 2009 capital budget. ... Given that there are a number of playground projects within your ward, it may be prudent to plan around having only one out of commission at a time. I suggest that we deal with Dufferin Grove early in the season, Dovercourt at the end of the season and perhaps defer Wallace Emerson to 2010. This would facilitate installation of the equipment at the start of the 2009 season, and have a minimal impact on users of the playgrounds. If you are in agreement with this approach, we suggest that planning begin now for these projects so that we can prepare a design package ready for tender as soon as the budget is approved, and help in managing the community consultation process.

Councillor Giambrone wrote back that there must be a public meeting before any action was taken.

Then the swings were removed, without consultation.

Then on August 22 2008, there was a site meeting of 5-6 men at the playground, including the City Parks supervisor, the City Tech services supervisor, the City construction manager, and others. The Parks supervisor told a playground user that the City would be hiring a consultant, and then there would be consultation with playground users. However, playground consultants have historically been landscape architects who have no particular knowledge of play. Therefore, CELOS explored the idea of bidding on the proposal contract, and making it available for playground users to plan the playground themselves.

Aug.18 2008 Jutta Mason to Councillor Giambrone's office: I learned today that the City plans to hire a playground consultant to develop plans and canvas opinion. Could you find out for me how CELOS can get the RFP? We would like to bid on the the contract.

Aug.21 2008: Councillor's office to Peter Didiano, City Construction manager: Can you please get back to Jutta about this.

Aug.22 2008 Peter Didiano, City construction manager: The RFQ [Request for Quotes] was issued by purchasing and it will close today at which time they will have the bids of the three landscape Architects. I cannot provide you with a document as it was prepared by purchasing and sent to the three bidders only. It is to late for any additional bidders for this project.

From Jutta August 22 2008 to Chris Gallop, Councillor's office:
It appears from the e-mail above that the Dufferin/Dovercourt/Wallace playground design contract was an internal process, by invitation only.

I think maybe it would be good for the City to make a time extension and open the process to more than the usual firms. I did check the public RFP list last week and they had no such playground RFP on their list.

Given the problems the last time around (2000 and after) it would be good to make some fundamental changes in process this time. The design concept is the first.

Aug.22 2008: From Chris Gallop, Councillor Giambrone's office:
I've discussed this with Adam. We do need a landscape architect on board for this project, however Adam has asked staff to let him know as soon as one is hired and he suggests we organize an initial meeting before the architect starts any design work so he can hear people's concerns and ideas up front before he gets started.

Once the architect has some draft design ideas down on paper to show people, we will of course also be doing broad public consultation with playground users, the Friends of Dufferin Grove, and the neighbourhood as a whole. The City is committed to developing a design, in consultation with the community, that will have broad public support.

Aug.22 2008: From Jutta Mason to Chris Gallop, Councillor Giambrone's office:
I think you're making a mistake. Just my opinion. This is not about getting a CELOS contract (I am not very interested, but I'd have to see the RFP) but about a proper process -- and this isn't. Is Adam supporting a non-public RFP process?

Aug.22 2008 Chris Gallop, Councillor Giambrone's office:
I am asking staff for more information about the RFQ process and about releasing the documents and will get back to you.

Aug.22 2008: From Jutta Mason:
Could you also find out who decided that a landscape architect must be the consultant? This will be an issue. Note this excerpt from a landscape architect's e-mail whom I asked about what training they get in playground design:

When I was in school I never would have guessed that I would be designing playgrounds! ha ha.

There is no formal course or training that I know for playground design except for a CSA (Canadian Standards Association) manual that deals strictly with safety (usually things like fall heights, surfacing etc., fairly technical and mostly related to equipment).

I have never taken any course, but have designed many playgrounds....

That's why I think this process needs a hold put on it.

Aug.22 2008 From Peter Didiano, project manager:
Jutta, I am replying to your email as well as other comments that have been made about this project.

I would like to start by saying that we conduct ourselves with the highest degree of professionalism in any capital project that we undertake and this project is no different.

As we have done in the past and as we currently do with any playground enhancement project, it is our aim to ensure the community is fully consulted, engaged and comfortable with what ever design solutions are developed and implemented for Dufferin Grove.

We fully expect and look forward to combined participation by the design team, PF & R staff and members of the community to ensure that we develop an exciting playground with design excellence that the community and the playground users can be proud of.

Once we have a consultant on board, I will contact Councillor Giambrone to set up a consultation schedule. We look forward to working with you.

Aug.22 2008 from Jutta Mason to Peter Didiano,
Thank you Peter, for your spirited defense of your practices.

The CSA-Parks playground project did not turn out well in its last iteration and neither have some of the more recent playground projects, notably Trinity-Bellwoods -- I imagine you're aware of the many complaints.

We had a fairly large conversation/photo gallery at the playground tonight, and most people there did not want to lose the current playground any more than they wanted to lose the swings last month. If indeed the playground users turn the whole project down, with reasons, you would have wasted the money hiring a consultant, right? So it would be better to wait until after the City has engaged with playground users, to hire a consultant.

Beyond that, many at the conversation tonight wanted to know what was in the RFQ, and how it was publicized. Would it be possible for the councillor's office to obtain a copy for the playground bulletin board?

Aug.23 2008 -- out-of-office holiday notice.

August 28 2008: No further communication from the City.

August 31 2008 From Jutta Mason To the "community playground group"

A quick playground update:

1. CSA guidelines: I just spoke to John Walter, Vice President of %blue%CSA International%% Standards Development and an old acquaintance because of rink regs. His development unit has 81 staff. He says he will now connect us with the CSA program development manager responsible for CSA playground standards Canada-wide (I think her name is Nicky Islik), to
(a) get a better understanding of why and in what ways the standards are NOT intended to be retroactive and
(b) involve someone from here as a committee member for the next CSA playground standards update.

I'll try to set up a site meeting with the CSA manager, just so we can dig a little deeper into the CSA worldview. I'll let everyone know the time.

2. Accessibility: After the group site meeting with Pamela and her disabled son Aidon on Monday, Pamela and Aidon and I have set a time to meet at the Bloorview Macmillan Rehab Centre on Tuesday at 10.30am. We'll look at what works in their outdoor playground and meet with the rec person in charge of the play areas, hopefully to get some costs information as well. Anyone who wants to drive up with me is welcome. We've already started the inventory of Dufferin Grove accessibility blocks, and Aseel will set up the web section as soon as Mayssan and I get her the list and photographs (a day or two). (Thanks for the photos Silvie -- now we need some prices!)

3. Guidelines that apply to DG playground: Peter Kells, who has been involved in CSA standards development and who created the playground inspectors' course for the Ontario Parks Association, has sent me the CSA guidelines re swings:
(1) two per bay
(2) 75 cm from swing to frame
(3) 60 cm between swings.
Our swings vary from 40cm to 50 cm swing to frame, and 32 to 72 cm distance between swings. Now it will be interesting to find out the reasoning behind the rule, since there seems to be no record of any side-to-side swing accidents in city playgrounds.

4. National context: Michael Monastyrskyj found more playground web links than you can ever imagine, and I'm working my way through them. He found an article by UBC prof Susan Herrington about the CSA and its migration from setting standards for lightbulbs and small appliances into setting playground standards, and the problems that caused in B.C. Maybe Belinda can find the time to talk to her while she's still in Vancouver.

5. Councillor's response: No word back from the councillor's office or Peter Didiano about putting a hold on hiring a consultant. Right now we're also waiting for word on when the wading pool construction will begin. Keeping a diary of that project, with costs, will be helpful.

6. Freedom of Information request about playground claims documentation: we have sent in the down payment of $81.50 to the Corporate Access and Privacy office and hope to receive the 190 pages of material in a week or two.

7. Fact-sharing: The playground web pages are up: CELOS/City Parks Page and Dufferin Grove Park/Playground Renovation. This is just the start -- lots of sorting and annotating needed, plus new sections to be added, e.g. accessibility. Any advice, pointers, comments, appreciated!

As soon as the wading pool construction fence goes up, it will make a good backdrop for the two big playground picture collages that Heidrun put together and Lily Weston adapted.

Media: CBC Radio did two items and so did The Villager, but hopefully the fact-sharing will be direct (person to person, not mediated by the media) as often as possible. People are certainly talking about the issue.