A Word with DBIA-WPR’s Brandon Dekker About CA SB 706, Expanding PDB

On Oct. 8, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 706, expanding the authority for the state Director of General Services to use Progressive Design-Build procurement in capital projects. The bill was sponsored by the Design-Build Institute of America-Western Pacific Region (DBIA-WPR), and their advocacy efforts were vital to its success. 

The Design-Build Delivers Blog wrote about the bill and DBIA-WPR’s efforts to get it passed earlier this fall. Now that the dust has settled a bit, we caught up with DBIA-WPR 2022 president Brandon Dekker for a deeper look inside the experience. 


Let’s look into the process of getting SB 706 from inception to law. Can you guide us through the steps?

Brandon Dekker, DBIA-WPR Past President: Absolutely. The journey of getting SB 706 sponsored, authored and passed was intricate and enlightening. It all began with the foundation –– a board that was not just supportive but truly committed. The importance of embarking on a legislative effort like this with a united and conviction-driven board can’t be overstated. This isn’t just about passing a bill; it’s about the shared belief in its significance to constituents, members, Owners and agencies affected by the proposed legislation.

The caution we initially exercised was deliberate. Advocating for change at this level isn’t just a financial commitment; it’s an organizational commitment in terms of time and energy. To ensure we navigated the complexity of it all, we enlisted the support of Beau Biller, a seasoned lobbyist familiar with the workings of state and local politics.

Timing played a crucial role. We’d considered this effort a year earlier but decided the window was too narrow for the thorough groundwork we needed to do. So, we gave ourselves more time, gathered unanimous board and executive committee support and picked up with the work in October and November 2022.

A significant advantage was having SB 991 as a precedent. This bill, signed into law in the 2021-2022 session, enabled water/wastewater agencies to employ Progressive Design-Build (PDB) procurement. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we leveraged its relevance as a template, laying the groundwork for SB 706.

The quest for an author was a strategic decision. Beau suggested someone influential and passionate, and Senator Anna Caballero emerged as the ideal choice. Her track record and role as the chair of the Local Governance and Finance Committee carried significance.. 

The meticulous development of a fact sheet to educate stakeholders marked the beginning of our external communication efforts. Internally, we initiated a social media campaign, leveraging the collective strength of the executive committee and board.

The groundwork laid by a steering committee established two years prior proved invaluable when we decided to move forward with SB 706. The steering committee, initially developed by Praful Kulkarni, AIA, DBIA, explored how DBIA-WPR could influence legislation to grant PDB capabilities to public agencies. 

Our monthly meetings with the steering committee, combined with the creation of a cohort group, proved instrumental in keeping everyone on the same page. As a cohort made up of a select group of DBIA-WPR Board Members and public agency leaders, this coordinated effort involved networking with individuals working for counties, cities or special districts, strategically connecting the dots.

Co-sponsorship emerged as a pivotal factor. The backing of influential entities at the state and national levels, including the California State Association of Counties (CSAC), the League of California Cities (Cal Cities) and the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO), strengthened our position. And again, getting Senator Caballero as the lead author paid off, given the crucial role of the Local Governance and Finance Committee in the legislative process.

With the legislative journey clarified, let’s pivot to the why. Why is it essential for agencies in California to adopt Progressive Design-Build (PDB)?

Dekker: Design-Build is no longer an alternative project delivery method, and PDB, in particular, has become a transformative force nationally. Its prevalence, particularly in the West, underscores its effectiveness.

What makes PDB pivotal is its flexibility, fostering collaborative environments where Owners and design-builders work together throughout the design development phase. Time and cost savings are critical aspects of PDB. It streamlines procurement processes, making it a powerful tool in project management. Qualifications-based selection in PDB is another advantage. This approach recognizes that project success is rooted in the chemistry and relationships within the team. Transparency is also a critical element of PDB. Owners need assurance that design-builders are transparent in their processes, fostering trust throughout the project. 

Throughout this journey, there are wins and losses; there are swings and misses. What lessons did you learn from working on SB 706, and how would you guide the next team taking on a similar challenge?

Dekker: Firstly, ensure full commitment. You need dedication to the cause. Learn from those who’ve succeeded before, leveraging their playbook. Assemble a committed cohort, have the right consultant from the start and be ready for opposition. Opposition can be an opportunity for education or collaboration. It’s about finding common ground without compromising the mission. 

In some cases, it’s an opportunity for education. We had one organization that approached us and said they would be in support of our bill if amended. They wanted to add some language that we thought really wasn’t necessary. And there was an “aha!” moment for me on a call with the leadership of the organization. It turned out it was just misalignment and understanding of what PDB was, and we didn’t need to add the language they were asking for in the bill. They could already do what they wanted to accomplish without it.

The organization ended up writing a support letter and sending it off to the senator and the governor. 

If you could distill those lessons into three pieces of advice for other regions tackling similar advocacy projects, what would those top three lessons be?

Dekker: First, if you’re passionate and believe in a cause, take action. True impact comes from putting passion into action. It’s about utilizing resources for the betterment of our industry.

Second, have the right people around you. Surround yourself with individuals who know the ropes, can navigate challenges and believe in the mission. 

The third lesson involves having a clear strategy and playbook. Stick to the playbook, over-communicate and keep everyone involved informed. Continuous communication with constituents ensures they know their best interests are prioritized.

With the playbook in hand and your goals accomplished, what’s the next step for your region or this bill?

Dekker: Great question. First, we want to savor the success of SB 706 and celebrate this achievement. Moving forward, our focus is on amplifying our advocacy efforts, gaining more exposure, particularly at the state capital in California.

Beyond that, our region comprises Nevada, Arizona, California and Hawai’i. While we’ve succeeded in California, we want to extend this legislation’s impact to other states in our region lacking the ability to implement PDB. We see California as a case study for successful advocacy, intending to guide our fellow regions using the same proven steps and methodology.

Additionally, we want to be a catalyst for other DBIA colleagues and leaders in different regions, offering guidance and support for their advocacy goals. As SB 706 becomes law on January 1, our immediate focus is on education –– reaching out to Owners, agencies, counties, cities and special districts to share with them the significant changes and their impact.

Moreover, we have a PDB subcommittee on the board and a close collaboration with the National PDB committee. Our aim is to leverage the national Progressive Design-Build Done Right material, making it accessible through what we call the PDB Toolbox in our region. This ensures that people wanting to explore PDB for the first time have the necessary tools, contracts, RFP templates and other materials at their disposal.

Final thoughts?

Dekker: We’re genuinely thrilled with the progress and how the process unfolded. Testifying in front of the state Senate and Assembly, passionately presenting our organization’s beliefs and witnessing it move forward is truly rewarding. Our dedicated board and professionals played a pivotal role –– it was a real team effort.

Read the full text of California SB 706 on TrackBill.