San Francisco

Proposal For New Jail And Rehab Facility Meets With Pushback In SoMa

A proposal for a new rehabilitation and detention facility has been presented to the Planning Department as a solution for rehousing the inmates currently residing in the seismically-unsound Hall of Justice on Bryant Street. The new building is part of the city's plan to vacate and demolish the existing Hall of Justice by 2023.

The proposed new jail would be approximately 100 feet tall, with room for a total of 384 maximum security beds (a reduction from the original proposal of 640 beds) to reflect the city's declining prison population. The current jail at the Hall of Justice includes an intake and release center, a "direct supervision facility" which has capacity for 392 inmates of both genders, and a maximum-security county jail that can hold 402 sentenced and pre-sentenced inmates.

The new jail would not have an outdoor recreation space; instead, the recreation space would be indoors, with 18-foot ceilings. 

The proposal for the new jail, which encompasses 40,276 square feet on Bryant between Sixth and Seventh streets, calls for several structures to be demolished, including an office building at 444 Sixth St. and a commercial building at 450 Sixth St. (currently home to Cosmoprof). Two vacant lots would also be included in the construction, and the McDonald's at 820 Bryant St. would be razed to make way for the jail. As a result, the landscape of the block would change dramatically.

Socketsite nabbed the initial renderings of the 640-bed jail, before the capacity was downgraded to 384 beds:

Image: Socketsite

The building at 480-484 Sixth St., which contains a three-story, 14-unit single room occupancy (SRO) residential building, as well as ground-floor retail (currently occupied by Grab n' Go Vietnamese and Firefly Salon), would stay put. However, at yesterday's Planning Department meeting, some attendees expressed concern that the tenants of 482 Sixth St. could be displaced if the building was re-zoned for city offices instead of housing. It's unclear whether the city would pay to rehouse these tenants elsewhere should that occur.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $240 million, $14.5 million of which would go towards the necessary real-estate acquisitions. The jail is eligible for a state financing grant of up to $80 million, but it could only be applied to the construction of a new jail, not the rebuilding of the current, seismically unfit one. Officials' hopes for getting the grant also put a halt to proposals to build the prison in San Bruno instead—it wouldn't apply to that location, either. 

Rendering: Socketsite

But the plan for the jail and rehab has been met with an appeal, filed by Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility and the Californians United For A Responsible BudgetBoth groups oppose the building of the jail in SoMa. Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility listed the attributes of rebuilding the Hall of Justice to be more seismically-sound, noting that building a new jail would not contribute to new jobs, as the workers would just be moved from one building to the other. Californians United For A Responsible Budget is opposed to the building of a jail in general. As they state on their website, their mission is "to curb prison spending by reducing the number of people in prison and the number of prisons in the state."

Several public commenters at the Planning Department hearing questioned the effect that the jail's height would have on Victoria Manalo Drives Park, located right next door. According to a preliminary environmental review of the jail, a large shadow would cover the playground and baseball area, which commenters said could have a negative effect on the community. Those spaces are both heavily used, thanks to the proximity of Bessie Carmichael Elementary School. 

Commenters also complained about a lack of communication about the proposed jail to the community, with one resident saying he and his neighbors hadn't heard anything about the jail before that day. Others mentioned concern with the Planning Department's only online information being in English, presenting statistics that detailed the number of non-English-speaking residents who reside near the proposed jail.

The next step is for an Environmental Impact Review (EIR) to be completed, and for the Board of Supervisors to review the appeal. The project sponsors are pushing for the EIR to be completed by July, which would increase their chances of receiving the $80 million grant. We'll keep you in the loop if the project moves forward. 

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