The exterior of the recently redeveloped Fire Station No.5 during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco Supervisors approve $628.5 million public safety bond

A more than $600 million bond to pay for public safety seismic upgrades was unanimously approved Tuesday for the ballot by the Board of Supervisors.

A more than $600 million bond to pay for public safety seismic upgrades was unanimously approved Tuesday for the ballot by the Board of Supervisors.

The proposed $628.5 million Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response general obligation bond is expected to come before voters in March 2020. A subsequent vote by the board is required to make it official, but that is expected given Tuesday’s 11-0 endorsement by the supervisors.

The proposed 2020 ESER Bond provides general categories for where the funding would go, but exact details for specific projects would come if approved by voters, which would take a two-thirds vote.

The bond does “not specify which fire stations, police stations, disaster response facilities, or Emergency Firefighting Water System projects would be renovated or the scope of work that would be completed for each station or project,” according to the budget analyst report. “Police and Fire Department staff would work with Public Works and [San Francisco Public Utilities Commission] staff to prioritize the needs of each specific facility, station, and project and to scope the individual projects.”

It is timed to result in no increase in property taxes from the current amount paid and, like past bonds, landlords can pass-through 50 percent of the property tax increase to their residential tenants.

City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who oversees The City’s capital planning, told the board’s Budget and Finance Committee last week that “in light of recent natural disasters up north and the risk of living in earthquake country it is imperative that we remain responsible in developing long-term plans in order to make sure we are protecting important facilities and infrastructure to keep San Francisco resilient and its residents, workers and visitors safe.”

With interest, the total borrowing over 20 years is expected to cost $1.08 billion. The bond extends the Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response bond program, which began in June 2010 with voter approval of a $412 million bond and continued in June 2014 with voter approval of $400 million bond.

The largest single chunk of the 2020 ESER bond, $275 million, will go towards seismically upgrading select neighborhood fire houses and replacing the Treasure Island firefighter academy and training facility.

About $148 million has gone toward upgrades to fire stations from the past two bonds, but a 2009 study found $350 million in need, according to the budget analyst report.

The second largest chunk, $153.5 million, will pay for the upgrade of the “the aging emergency firefighter water system,” historically called the Auxiliary Water Supply System, or AWSS.

“Funding will be focused on improving high pressure fire suppression capabilities of the City’s western neighborhoods,” the budget analyst report said.

About $121 million will go toward the continuation of seismically upgrading district police stations and police support facilities.

Some $70 million will go toward seismic improvements of various disaster response facilities.

The remaining $9 million will go to the expansion of the Department of Emergency Management’s 911 Call Center at 1011 Turk St.

When announcing the bond proposal in May, Mayor London Breed said, “We know that we must always be prepared for when the next major earthquake strikes, which means making sure that our fire stations, police stations, and critical infrastructure will not only withstand the impact, but also be ready to serve our first responders.”

“The United States Geological Survey estimates a 72 percent chance that one or more earthquakes of a magnitude of 6.7 or larger will occur in the Bay Area before the year 2042,” according to propsoal.

Another ESER bond, which would total $300 million, is planned for the November 2027 ballot.

In other business, the board voted 11-0 to approve Mayor London Breed’s appointment of Ike Kwon, a former member of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, to the Treasure Island Development Authority Board of Directors for a term that concludes April 28, 2022.

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