Cindy Chew/2010 S.F Examiner file photo

Cindy Chew/2010 S.F Examiner file photo

Seismic fixes still far off at ‘dangerous’ Hall of Justice

Top San Francisco officials say the Hall of Justice would be dangerously unstable in a powerful earthquake, but hundreds of workers and jail inmates working and living there could have to wait more than a decade to move out.

Mayor Ed Lee has called the seven-story, L-shaped building at 850 Bryant St. “one of the most dangerous buildings we’re still forced to use.”

Police Chief Greg Suhr has expressed concern that the 1958 building is not up to current seismic codes.

“If the earthquake happened today, we’d be out of luck,” Suhr said in April. “It would probably come down; we don’t know what the loss of life would be.”

However, various city departments are expected to remain in the building until at least 2025, while plans to replace state-owned San Francisco Superior Court courtrooms could be even further delayed due to state budget shortfalls.

A 2010 Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bond measure approved by voters is allowing the Police Department to move its headquarters and Southern station from the Hall of Justice to the new $243 million Public Safety Building, located at Third and Mission Rock streets.

But the Police Department will still have divisions located at the Hall of Justice. The courtrooms and the  offices of the district attorney, medical examiner and adult probation will still be there as well, along with two county jails that are home to more than 600 inmates on the top two floors of the building.

Charles Higueras, who is overseeing the Hall of Justice replacement project for the Department of Public Works, said he doesn’t believe the building would collapse in an earthquake, but said it would likely not be suitable immediately for re-occupancy.

The City’s 10-year capital plan recommended placing a second earthquake safety bond measure on this November’s ballot, but Higueras said the measure is being put off until June 2014.

If it makes it on the ballot and is approved by voters, the bond measure would fund the relocation of the Medical Examiner’s Office, as well as the Police Department’s forensic and traffic divisions, in 2018.  

The City also plans on purchasing lots adjacent to the Hall of Justice and building a  $290 million jail there, Higueras said. The new jail would likely have to be paid for out of the general fund since bond measures for jails have failed at the ballot box recently, Higueras said.

Construction on the jail project would likely not start until at least 2017, he said.

As for the courtrooms, they are under the jurisdiction of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which has seen budget reductions in recent years and has no current funding source for new courtrooms to replace the existing ones at the Hall of Justice, AOC spokeswoman Teresa Ruano said.

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