SF asks voters to approve $412M bond measure for earthquake upgrade

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SF voters asked to approve $412M seismic upgrade

SAN FRANCISCO — The mayor and other San Francisco officials urged residents on Tuesday to approve a $412 million bond measure on the June ballot to help prepare for the next major earthquake.

The measure would allocate $104 million to reinforce what officials say is an antiquated system created in the years after the Great Earthquake of 1906 to ensure access to water for firefighters after a major temblor. The rest of the measure would go for new police and fire buildings.

Mayor Gavin Newsom gathered with other leaders near an aging pumping station on the edge of San Francisco Bay to encourage voters to approve the funding.

The 11 million-gallon system consists of pumps, a reservoir and storage tanks. If the city’s water supply fails and can no longer supply the system, the pumps are supposed to suck in bay water and refill the reservoir so that firefighters have continued access to water.

While the pumps themselves have been upgraded more recently, officials said the buildings that house the pumps date back to 1912 and need to be retrofitted.

Officials also want to build more emergency storage cisterns in areas of the city that have grown since the early 20th century system was created. San Francisco currently has 177 cisterns that can hold 75,000 to 200,000 gallons each.

The emergency water system was designed after the fires of 1906 gutted much of the city, and was modeled on similar engineering feats in Manhattan and Milwaukee at the time, said Assistant Deputy Fire Chief Michael Thompson.

The reservoir and storage tanks are located on top of the city’s highest points, allowing a gravity-fueled, high-pressure water delivery for firefighters.

Thompson said the fires of 1906 were the last in a string of blazes that had devastated large swaths of San Francisco. Lack of access to water for firefighters was a major problem, forcing them to watch helplessly as major hotels and other buildings burned.

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