San Francisco police can’t get out of the decrepit Hall of Justice fast enough after another major water leak damaged some of its remaining units still stuck at the aging building.
The “large leak” from a sewer line impacted several of the Investigations Bureau offices on Sept. 27, soiling a box of Gang Task Force case files and closing off areas for sewage testing and cleaning, Deputy Chief Greg Yee said last Friday in an internal email obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.
The decades-old criminal courthouse at 850 Bryant St. was once home to police headquarters and Southern Station as well as the District Attorney’s Office and a seventh-floor jail. But repeat problems with sewage leaks and concerns about an earthquake crumbling the building have prompted a mass exodus.
Now, the San Francisco Police Department is looking at new sites to temporarily house the officers who remain.
While police brass agree the “best option for our members is to completely relocate from the Hall of Justice,” Yee said there isn’t currently a place to move them all.
The Investigations Bureau won’t have a permanent home for some seven years, until a new “Justice Campus” is developed on the site of the former McDonald’s next door.
So Yee said the department has identified sites at Laguna Honda Hospital and a newly purchased police storage facility at 1828 Egbert Ave. to place a temporary “modular structure” with plumbing and electricity. Talks are underway with the Department of Public Health to use the Laguna Honda site, but no costs have been announced.
“We understand that there is a considerable amount of frustration and concern surrounding the problems with the Hall of Justice as well as with the operational disruption,” Yee said. “The PD is advocating for a better work site for our members. We ask for your patience as this project has several moving parts, negotiations, as well as fiscal decisions that need to be considered.”
The Police Department is among the last city agencies to work out of the Hall of Justice, which still has operating courtrooms run by the San Francisco Superior Court.
The building has a long history of sewage, rodent and asbestos issues.
“The problem with the plumbing is that the building is past its useful life,” said Bill Barnes, a spokesperson for the City Administrator’s Office. “The infrastructure routinely fails and that’s why we need to move out of the Hall of Justice. Fixing it costs so much money that it’s not feasible.”
In July, The City agreed to pay out $2.1 million to settle a series of lawsuits after raw sewage overflowed from toilets into jail cells on the seventh floor.
In September, city officials permanently closed the jail after the pandemic drove a sharp decline in the inmate population, removing a significant barrier to the jail’s long-awaited closure.
The Sheriff’s Department now houses inmates at its remaining jail facilities on Seventh Street and in San Bruno. It also still has a Warrant Unit operating out of the Hall of Justice.
The Police Department was able to temporarily relocate the leak-impacted Gang Task Force to the Police Academy and Technical Services Unit to the new headquarters in Mission Bay.
While the leak also impacted the Sex Offender Unit and ID Bureau to a lesser extent, those units do not appear to have been relocated.
The department’s Traffic Company is also not slated to be relocated from the Hall of Justice until a new facility on Evans Avenue is completed in October 2021.
The SFPD did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.