SF fire house slated to be torn down and re-built; neighbors not happy

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The San Francisco Fire Department is scheduled to tear down and rebuild Station 16 in the city's Cow Hollow neighborhood.

Department officials say the firehouse needs to meet new building codes. "We want the firehouse operational immediately after an earthquake," said Deputy Fire Chief Ken Lombardi. "Station 16 is safe, but the standards have changed since 16 was built."

Fire officials say the estimated $6.1 million, two year project is funded by a voter approved earthquake safety bond designed to make neighborhood firehouses safe during an earthquake.

Not every resident living next to the firehouse on Greenwich Street is happy. "As a taxpayer we have certain rights and I feel like we've been completely walked over," said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. The neighbor has filed an appeal to stop the project saying the re-build is a waste of money.

He says his attorney obtained a civic design review of Station 16, conducted a few years ago, that says a seismic retrofit of the station would cost $570,000. Much cheaper, he says, than a rebuild.

Charles Higueras, with the Department of Public Works, says because of new building codes it's more appropriate to tear the station down and rebuild. "We looked at whether we could sustain the facility as is and still accomplish the programmatic intent, and found we could not."

Neighbors also argue that no environmental review has been completed for the project, but DPW says this particular project is exempt. "We're not increasing the generation of traffic or the number of workers," said Higueras. "Sixteen, like a few other houses, are determined to be by category, exempt."

"From my perspective it's not being steamrolled, but I understand the frustration as well," said Supervisor Mark Farrell who represents the Marina District. Farrell says there's been public hearings on the project and he's also heard from firefighters who voiced their concern about the new design, especially the living quarters. "Because of certain legal requirements we can't accomplish everything we want to do in this one site."

One of those legal requirements is being compliant with ADA regulations. "Change is difficult for a lot of people," said Deputy Fire Chief Ken Lombardi. "We build a firehouse for not just the current members, but we're building a firehouse for the next 100 years."

If the neighbors lose their appeal next in April, construction could begin in early summer. The truck, engine and firefighters would remain in service, but be stationed at other houses.