SF supes approve plans to allow DA's office, other departments to leave Hall of Justice

- The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today approved plans that will allow hundreds of city employees to move out of the seismically unsafe and squalid Hall of Justice building.
The supervisors voted unanimously in favor of authorizing a lease and two letters of intent to rent properties at locations near the building at 850 Bryant St. that currently houses the district attorney's office, police investigations unit, adult probation department, dozens of courtrooms, and two floors of county jails.
The agreements would start on July 1, 2018, allowing hundreds of employees in the city departments to leave the Hall of Justice. The building was built in 1958, is not up to current seismic codes, and has faced numerous recent problems of sewage leaks and rodent infestations.
Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, in announcing his support for the agreements, noted a January sewage backup at the building that cost $315,000 to clean up and destroyed evidence and files in offices there.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin said "it's abundantly clear that that building is substandard ... and not a healthy place for our city workers."
However, Peskin and other supervisors expressed reservations about the plan to lease the spaces instead of buying them. The new site for the district attorney's office will be at 350 Rhode Island St., while the other two sites are at 777 Brannan St. and 945 Bryant St.
"We've had repeated opportunities to buy office buildings for the long-term ... but remain captive to a very expensive rental market," he said.
The plan for the L-shaped building is to demolish the part of the building that includes the city departments and then construct a new one in its place.
Supervisor Katy Tang said the fact that the plans called for the departments to eventually return to the 850 Bryant St. site meant it "doesn't make sense to own versus lease."
There is no current plan from the state Administrative Office of the Courts to replace the courtrooms at the Hall of Justice, so prosecutors, defense attorneys, court staff, jurors and others will still have to use the building for court hearings and trials.
The top two floors of the building house county jails and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy is developing plans for moving the inmates elsewhere, but the department is "not ready to submit anything to the (Board of Supervisors)," sheriff's spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said.
District attorney's office spokesman Max Szabo said today's action by the Board of Supervisors "was such an important vote for everyone who occupies that building. About 500 will be relocated as a result of the vote today, and it paves the way for those that remain to exit as well."

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