Real estate deal last hope for new Peninsula jail

An eleventh-hour real estate deal appears to be Redwood City’s best hope for convincing the San Mateo County sheriff to build a large new jail somewhere other than the city’s downtown.

City officials have been working behind closed doors to put together a purchase agreement with the owners of four properties totaling about 4.5 acres on Chemical Way, located across the street from the city’s police station.

The city isn’t interested in buying the land — it’s hoping to negotiate a purchase deal that it could hand off to the county, which would then acquire the property for its jail project. Terms have not been disclosed, though the land purchase would exceed $10 million, said City Manager Peter Ingram.

The talks are all part of the city’s effort to convince Sheriff Greg Munks that the site on the east side of U.S. Highway 101 is a better alternative than his preferred site — the motor pool on the county’s campus near downtown — for a new 768-bed jail. The county already has its main jail, the 16-year-old Maguire Correctional Facility, near the downtown campus.

Residents and city officials fear that having the proposed $170 million, six-story jail in downtown would scare away developers and undermine years of work spent revitalizing the shopping district. But Munks said the new jail would emphasize inmate rehabilitation and is needed to reduce chronic overcrowding in the county’s jails. Maguire is rated for 688 inmates, but often holds 950 to 1,000.

In order to see a Chemical Way deal through, Ingram said the city would need assurance from the county that it would not build downtown.

“At the end of the day, that’s why we started this in the first place,” Ingram said. “We don’t want the jail in downtown.”

With the sheriff planning to make a jail site recommendation to the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 19,

Ingram hopes to have the city council consider a potential Chemical Way deal on Sept. 27.

The Sheriff’s Office is watching the property negotiations closely and is “trying to weigh out what’s the best solution for the county and the sheriff,” said Lt. Deborah Bazan, who heads the sheriff’s jail planning unit.

The larger site on Chemical Way would allow for a shorter building that would likely be cheaper to construct, Bazan said. But because Chemical Way is about a mile from the county’s campus, where the courts are, there may be extra transportation costs for moving inmates.

Proposed new jail

680: Beds for men in proposed new jail

88: Beds for women in proposed new jail

254,740: Square footage of new facility

145: Staff at new facility

$32 million: Projected annual operating costs, at full capacity

$170 million: Projected construction cost

834: Combined rated capacity for county’s current men’s and women’s jails

1,002: Average daily inmate population in August

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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