San Francisco's District Attorney is pushing to get his department moved out of the Hall of Justice because of a rodent infestation, leaking pipes, asbestos in the walls, unsafe drinking water and a well-known issue of the building not being seismically safe.
But city planners say that hope is unlikely in the current climate as renovation costs could top $1 billion.
During a tour of the third floor 850 Bryant Street offices on Monday, NBC Bay Area discovered a dead mouse dead in a trap, and an unsightly yellow stain on the ceiling from a leaking pipe. About 800 people work in the building, including police officers, sheriff's deputies, and jail inmates. The building was constructed in 1958.
District Attorney spokesman Alex Bastian also showed NBC Bay Area asbestos in the walls, and recounted a story where he witnessed mice chewing through stacks of files.
The dangers of the Hall of Justice have been documented for decades, as cities throughout the country began re-examining their vulnerabilties following Hurricane Katrina. Three times since 1992, public works officials and engineers have deemed the building unsafe, according to a 2005 San Francisco Chronicle article.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi's office is in another building. Still, he sympathized with District Attorney George Gascon, whose staff has to work in these conditions. Plus, his attorneys often have to go into the Hall of Justice to defend their clients in court.
"It's shameful -- it's the only way to put it," Adachi said.
Gascon would like to move, just as the San Francisco police brass are this year: "Many of them, quite frankly, could be working somewhere else in a much safer environment, much healthier environment."
San Francisco Director of Capital Planning Brian Strong said it would cost $1.2 billion to rebuild the Hall of Justice.
"We do not have the money to do that," Strong said. "If we do we would have to change the priorities that the mayor and the Board of Supervisors have established."
The established priorities Strong is referring to in the 10-year spending plan are revisited every two years, with the next reset coming up next month.
Ironically, when Gascon was chief of police from 2009 to 2011, he successfully campaigned to pass a general obligation bond to build a new police headquarters in Mission Bay where the top leaders are moving to.