Board Of Supes OKs Plan To Apply For Grant To Build $290 Million New Jail

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today authorized the city to apply for a state grant to help build a new jail adjacent to the current Hall of Justice building.

San Francisco is proposing to build a new $290 million jail to replace the facilities currently housing roughly 600 inmates on the top two floors of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St., and is eligible for a state grant of up to $80 million to finance the project.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and other proponents of the plan say the current jail is in a seismically unsafe building and has an antiquated design that allows little space for rehabilitative programs and allows for only intermittent supervision of inmates.

The new jail would be built several years from now on a site directly east of the Hall of Justice.

However, opponents of the proposal, including District Attorney George Gascon, said the city should instead focus on programs that reduce the number of inmates in San Francisco jails and explore moving the Hall of Justice inmates to a city-owned jail in San Bruno.

Supervisor Eric Mar said today that he was among those skeptical of the need for a new jail before he recently took a tour of the Hall of Justice site with Mirkarimi.

Mar said the city needs “a more humane, modern facility that addresses rehabilitation.”

Supervisor David Campos said he was still skeptical about “whether or not the current proposal reflects the needs of the city.”

Campos said, “If we can have alternatives to incarceration, I advise for them.”

He said the city should also consider the cost of the project after debt financing is taken into account. City Controller Ben Rosenfield told the supervisors that the new jail could end up costing more than $500 million after interest is paid over the coming decades.

Board president David Chiu, who spoke in support of the proposal, noted the project would end up reducing the total number of jail beds in the city once the jails at the Hall of Justice are shuttered.

He said the seismic issues at the current jails “pose a substantial risk to inmates and staff,” while other proponents noted there would be high costs and security problems with transporting inmates from a jail in San Bruno to their court cases in San Francisco.

The supervisors ended up voting unanimously in support of applying for the potential grant, which would come from a pool of $500 million authorized by Senate Bill 1022 to be dispersed by the State Public Works Board to counties around California.

Chiu noted that the actual jail project still is in the planning stages and would also have to be approved by the city.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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