Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Politics & Govt
Published on October 27, 2017
City Plans To Relocate Some Hall Of Justice Staffers To Potrero Hill OfficesThe Hall of Justice has been declared seismically unfit. | Photo: Kevin Y./Yelp

The city is preparing to relocate employees who work out of the Hall of Justice (850 Bryant St.), which has been deemed unsafe.

Although arrangements to relocate the facility’s prisoners haven’t been made, the District Attorney’s office and SFPD’s Investigator staff are planning to move to 350 Rhode Island St., formerly the site of a culinary school.

In January, the City Administrator determined that the Hall of Justice, built in 1958, poses health and safety risks and should be closed no later than the end of 2019.

Inside the current Hall of Justice. | Photo: Kevin Y./Yelp

In addition to concerns about its stability in an earthquake, workers say the building “suffers from asbestos, lead paint, pests, rodents, sewage leaks, power outages, flooding, [and] consistently broken elevators,” reported SFGate.

While it seems clear that no inmates will be relocated to the spaces the city has proposed to lease so far, the president of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association and the head of the Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association both told Hoodline there had been no outreach by the city to discuss the plans.

A current proposal calls for the District Attorney and Police Investigator staff  to relocate to 350 Rhode Island St., with the Adult Probation Department and Police Property Control moving to 945 and 777 Brannan St., respectively.

The District Attorney and Police Investigator staff may move to 350 Rhode Island St. | Photo: Regus 350 Rhode Island/Yelp

The first-year cost of leasing the three spaces is expected to exceed the cost of leasing space in the Hall of Justice by more than $8.6 million, according to the Budget and Finance Analyst’s report on one of the proposed leases. Funding for any one-time and ongoing lease expenses has not yet been secured for the police or district attorney departments’ budgets, according to the report.

The Board of Supervisors on October 31st will consider a draft lease for the space on Rhode Island Street for 15 years starting in July 2018, with an option to extend for an additional five years. The starting rate is $51/square foot for 84,695 square feet, starting next year. An additional 40,427 square feet of space will be available in April 2020.

The base rate would increase about 3% annually to $73.59/square foot in 2033, and the city would be separately responsible for utilities, janitor and security services, as well as other operating expenses.

If the lease is approved, police department staff will start moving into 350 Rhode Island St. as existing tenant leases end and space becomes available.

San Francisco County Jail #6 in San Bruno is currently only used for training | Photo: SF Sheriff Department

One tenant that’s already vacated the premises is the beleaguered Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, which officially shuttered at the end of September. The culinary school former space could replace the industrial kitchen at the Hall of Justice that prepares meals for up to 850 inmates daily.

While efforts to relocate law enforcement staff are materializing, little information is available about plans to move the inmates.

County Jail #4 at the Hall of Justice currently houses about 350 prisoners, according to a letter to the Board of Supervisors from Sheriff Vicki Hennessy. In 2015, a proposal to construct a new jail to replace the seismically compromised Hall of Justice was rejected by the Board because it wanted the city to focus on “pre-trial alternatives to incarceration,” according to the sheriff’s letter.

Pre-trial release efforts have redirected about 1,150 individuals to other city service programs, and cut the city’s prison population to 1,250-1,300 individuals, the sheriff wrote. But pretrial release efforts have not eliminated the need for the 850 beds at the Bryant Street facility.

The sheriff’s office proposed plans to retrofit a currently closed site in San Bruno that housed a minimum-security facility consisting of six dormitory housing areas. A number of changes would be needed for that site to accommodate relocated inmates, including the development of individual and safety cells.

Because those modifications are likely to take more time than the city would like, the plan to vacate the Hall of Justice jail space is “forthcoming, subject to Board of Supervisors Approval,” according to the Budget Analyst’s report.

Over the next 20-25 years, the city intends to demolish the Bryant Street wing of the Hall of Justice, rebuild the Superior Court on that vacated property, demolish the former court wing on Harriet Street, then rebuild new office buildings to return the relocated staff to the site at 850 Brannan.