Oakland diocese sues cathedral builders, architects

Lawsuit alleges “design and/or construction defects and damages” at $175-million Cathedral of Christ the Light

Diocese of Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light (Photo © Timothy Hursley)

Since it was completed in 2008, Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light has been hailed as an architectural marvel, but the same design and construction that has drawn such praise is also at the center of a legal dispute over defects including cracking concrete, faulty plumbing and other flaws that have caused damage to the cathedral complex.

The Catholic Cathedral Corporation of the East Bay, the incorporated owner of the cathedral, alleges in a complaint filed in the Superior Court of Alameda County that the companies involved in the design and construction of the cathedral complex — a $175 million project — were responsible for various “design and/or construction defects and damages.”

The alleged flaws include tearing drywall throughout the chancery (church offices), damage to various doors and entries throughout the cathedral, cracking of concrete walls and walkways, and the misalignment of ceilings, walls and pipe hangers — all of which, the diocese says, is putting stress on the piping throughout the complex. Water intrusion has caused damage to the cathedral’s below-grade parking structure, the chancery kitchen, Parish Hall, chancery office and mechanical rooms, according to the complaint.

The complaint was originally filed in August 2014 against builders and architects involved in the project, including architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Webcor Construction, Blue’s Roofing and Kendall-Heaton Associates, as well as a slew of subcontractors, designers, suppliers, builders and others it refers to as “Does 1-100” in the original lawsuit.

Several involved entities, including Webcor, filed cross-complaints, according to court documents. Webcor’s cross complaint alleges that its subcontractors should be responsible for fixing the damage if the court finds the diocese’s claim is valid. Some of those subcontractors subsequently filed cross-complaints invoking clauses in their contracts that they say indemnify them against claims like the lawsuit.

A court-appointed special master has tentatively scheduled a mediation to occur among the parties involved in the lawsuit in late 2017 or early 2018, after “necessary information” has been gathered, according to a letter published in June on the Diocese of Oakland’s website by Vicar General George Mockel, who is also president of the Catholic Cathedral Corporation of the East Bay.

The construction of the cathedral complex itself cost a hefty sum — a total of  $175 million by the time it was completed in 2008. At the start of the diocese’s “Reclaiming Christ’s Mission Together” capital campaign in 2015, the diocese had amassed $114.7 million in bond debt, in part from the construction of the cathedral and other costs.

Full story at Mercury News.

To read previous CalCatholic articles about the problems with the Oakland Cathedral, please see “Big problems at Oakland chancery” and “Problems at Oakland Diocesan Cathedral Center remain unresolved“.

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Comments

  1. Tom Byrne says:

    Can you sue over ugly?

  2. So, the Cathedral of Christ the Light is crumbling from the inside. What an apropos analogy.

  3. Tom Byrne: I love your pithy question!

  4. I believe ‘ugly’ is a matter of taste or opinion. Misaligned pipes, crooked walls, and other alleged defects are much more a matter of factual proof. Where was the Diocese’s project manager, who should have inspected and approved the work as it progressed?? With all the cross claims, sounds like the only winners might be the lawyers.

  5. Are there problems with the building? Yes. Is it unusual for a large project to have major issues after a few years? Not really. Is it unusual for owners to sue builders? No. Are builders bonded for these suits? Yes. Are all designs perfect? No. Point, there is nothing here that is unusual, except perhaps the extent. This is a construction project, not a theological issue.

  6. Charles Teachout says:

    By whom was the project approved? The public ought to know who ordered this fiasco. It is obvious that the Oakland Cathedral’s ultra-modern construction is highly unique. If contractors didn’t have experience building such structures, there would be a high probability of problems later on. Had the Diocese used a traditional design that called for more conventional construction techniques, would they be suing in court? I would bet not. This Cathedral project is but the symbol of the massive depravity of common sense in today’s “spirit of Vatican II” Liberal Church that has plagued the faithful for 50 years. The chickens have come home to roost. Nowhere have the faithful suffered more greatly than in the Democrat One Party…

    • This comment by Charles Teachout is flatly ridiculous. The problems–as the article puts it plainly–were “tearing drywall throughout the chancery (church offices), damage to various doors and entries throughout the cathedral, cracking of concrete walls and walkways, and the misalignment of ceilings, walls and pipe hangers.”
      These issues have NOTHING to do with the “spirit of Vatican II.” Yeah, blame Vatican II, blame your favorite boogeyman–the late Bugnini even–for problems with tearing drywall, pipe hangers, walls, and cracking walls in this or on any church building. Preposterous.

    • Bob One says:

      Charles Teachout, your comments about construction problems are worth discussion, but to relate leaking pipes to VII is bad logic. It wouldn’t get a “C” in Rhetoric class. At some point, the dualism has to stop. We Catholics have got to stop thinking that those with whom we disagree are evil people. Let the facts take us to resolution. Leaking pipes and shifting foundations have nothing to do with faith or religion.

  7. Romulus Augustus says:

    A Roman Catholic cathedral? I assumed it was the hanger for the German airship “Hindenburg” simply ghastly and not in the least Roman let alone Catholic, enough of this nonsense and build Catholic churches with the TLM as the “ORDINARY FORM”

  8. Cathedrals were supposed to last for 100 years, e.g., Nôtre Dame de Paris. And this Oakland one looks awful too. Viva el Concilio Vaticano Segundo.

  9. Michael McDermott says:

    The Cathedral is interesting and in some ways Beautiful – but Many Inner City Catholic School Children could have benefitted from investment in their Education & Playgrounds (*A Vital part of grade school) for the Co$t

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