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SF Voters Approve Bond to Upgrade Fire/Safety Facilities

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San Francisco voters approved Proposition B, a $412-million “Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response” bond that will cover the first phase expense of seismically upgrading a number of neighborhood fire stations and emergency water systems and construct a new public safety building in Mission Bay.

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The Emergency Firefighting Water Supply System, officially called the Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS), is an independent high-pressure water supply system dedicated to fire protection. It was built in 1913 in response to the 1906 Great Earthquake. It consists of a 135-mi pipeline network, a high elevation reservoir and two large capacity tanks, two pumping stations, fireboats, underground water tanks (cisterns) and Bay water intakes (suction connections). The system and its core facilities are currently used throughout the year by the San Francisco Fire Department to fight multiple alarm fires.

San Francisco could expect up to 100 fires following a major earthquake and the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that fires from a major earthquake could cause up to 50% of the destruction—approximately $8 billion in building losses. The AWSS is vital to extinguishing large fires, saving lives and protecting against the loss of buildings and homes. The system is also robust and provides additional capacity to the domestic water supply system.

The elements of the AWSS that provide pressurized water to the system, called core facilities, are extremely run down. The current cost estimate to complete critical repairs under the bond is $104 million.

Many of the city’s neighborhood fire stations are in need of seismic upgrades and other health and safety improvements. Selection of neighborhood fire stations for seismic retrofits and improvements will be based on the following criteria: seismic safety and upgrades; health and safety to fire crews; fire coverage and emergency response times; and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And the new 320,000-sq-ft Public Safety Building will cost an estimated $243 million. The Police Command Center and the Southern District Police Station will move out of the Hall of Justice, which could be rendered unusable in an earthquake, and into the new seismically safe facility in Mission Bay at Third Street and Mission Rock. Additionally, a new fire station will be located in the building to serve the growing and underserved Mission Bay community.

Construction can begin as early as 2012.

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