A controversial plan to build a new $240 million jail in San Francisco moved forward Wednesday after a tumultuous hearing marked by a protest that shut the meeting down for several hours and led to the arrest of several people.
The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee Wednesday voted unanimously to forward the jail project to the full board for a vote without a recommendation. The committee also agreed to schedule the vote for Dec. 15 rather than Dec. 8 to allow newly-elected Supervisor Aaron Peskin time to be sworn in.
The jail project, which includes the acceptance of an $80 million state grant, the issuance of $215 million in city financing and the purchase of property next to the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St., is intended to replace two decrepit, seismically unsafe jails now in use on the site. The proposed new 384-bed facility would have 444 fewer beds than the current jails and include more space for inmate programs as well as units for mental health and drug treatment, according to city officials.
The project faces stiff opposition from opponents who argue the city should instead spend the money on social services and programs to reduce incarceration and crime rates. Opponents have urged the city to instead renovate existing jails in San Bruno, but city officials have said that solution is unworkable and would still leave the jail in need of more beds and holding facilities.
Supervisor Katy Tang today said the conditions in the current jails were untenable and needed to be addressed.
"Some of those arguments really ignore the practical reality of what would happen if this facility were not rebuilt," Tang said before the committee vote.
The project's fate before the full board remains uncertain, with some board members expressing opposition. Supervisor Eric Mar, a member of the budget and safety committee, Wednesday said that he would likely be voting against it due to his concerns about incarceration rates and their impact on the community.
"I want to be on the right side of history on this," Mar said. Wednesday's vote came after a noisy protest under the No New SF Jail Coalition banner around noon Wednesday. The group, which called for the vote to be postponed, erupted into loud chanting before discussion began, bringing the proceedings to a halt and eventually forcing supervisors to call a recess.
The protest culminated in the arrest by sheriff's deputies of four females and one male who had chained themselves together. The five were arrested on suspicion of trespassing in a public building, according to a sheriff's office spokeswoman.