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Port Commission to vote on lease renewal for SF Bay Railroad yard

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Goats at the San Francisco Bay Railroad’s railyard. The animals offer a natural solution to keeping the track clear of overgrown plants. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The San Francisco Port Commission will vote Tuesday on whether to approve a five-year lease extension on a 10-acre plot of land rented by the San Francisco Bay Railroad (SFBR). The land is being used for the storage of vehicles and materials, and is also home to 14 beehives that produce honey, as well as a herd of goats that work to keep the rail track area clear.

SFBR is a short-line railroad that serves The City and the Port of San Francisco. The company is independently owned and employs around 45 people from the local community at its railyard in the Southern Waterfront.

SFBR’s main business is transporting contaminated soils from various San Francisco construction projects by rail to a landfill in Utah. This service has helped with the construction of the Salesforce Tower, the Transbay Terminal and several hospitals in The City. The Railroad is currently bidding on contracts for the construction of the Warriors’ planned arena in Mission Bay.

The lease extension from the Port would not only allow SFBR to maintain their work, but an extension on the land that’s available would also help it replace storage tracks at Piers 80 and 96, which are no longer available to the Railroad.

The leased property could also be expanded by half an acre, allowing the Railroad to build 3,200 ft of extra track. This enhancement will allow the railyard to operate more efficiently and will decrease its impact on the Southern Waterfront community, such as the disruptive blocking of city streets.

While railroads may seem like the infrastructure of the past, they’re actually a more environmentally friendly mode of transit than traditional vehicles. SFBR reports that their rail operations save 1 million gallons of diesel fuel each year by offering an alternative to long-haul trucking. It also removes more than 10,000 one-way truck trips that would pass along Bay Area roads and bridges.

That commitment to lowering its impact extends to the Railroad’s employment of goats on the property, whose grazing offers an environmentally friendly alternative to herbicides.

A decision on the lease will be made during the San Francisco Port’s Commission meeting on Tuesday, the agenda of which can be found here.

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