Old Station 21 is the oldest firehouse in San Francisco. The building is designated a historic landmark.
The Mayor's Office recently targeted this building to be sold as surplus property.
Led by Richard Kay, president of the Haight Divisadero Neighbors and Merchants Association (HDNMA), neighbors turned out at the May 13, 2004 meeting of the Fire Commission to demand that the Commission stop the sale of this historic landmark.
The issue was not on the Commission's agenda, but eight concerned neighbors addressed the Commission about Old Station 21 during public comment. After public comment, Commission President Paul Conroy questioned Fire Chief Hayes-White who confirmed that the property was indeed proposed for sale.
Kay told the Commission of the history of the firehouse and the community efforts to save the building. Located at 1152 Oak Street, the firehouse was built in the early 1890's. Firefighters from the station battled the 1906 fires, saving Victorian houses throughout the Western Addition from destruction. The building is presently used by the San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) as a gym/rehabilitation center for injured firefighters.
For years the SFFD has been promising to fix up the building and allow community use of the space. At a neighborhood meeting just a few months ago, a SFFD representative assured neighbors that the building would be rehabilitated and made available for community use.
The community has raised $20,000 for
rehabilitation of the building. Kay has attempted to give SFFD the check, but the Department will not take it. Members of the Victorian Alliance have also stated that their group may be willing to donate funds to the restoration effort. On May 7, 2004, over the objection of the Mayor's Office, the City's Capital Improvements Advisory Committee allocated $155,000 to restoration of the building which will be used if it remains City property.
Chief Hayes-White met with the neighbors at the conclusion of the May 13 Fire Commission meeting. She explained that SFFD did not want the building to be sold, but that the sale may be necessary because the mayor was requiring SFFD to reduce its budget by $20 million this year. She portrayed the issue as a choice between selling this building or
cutting crucial fire services.
This one-time revenue source (which is expected to raise only about $500,000 according to Chief Hayes-White) will do nothing to solve the City's budget problems. Mayor Newsom and Chief Hayes-White should focus on structural changes in the SFFD that would bring about long-term savings. The City Controller's recent report contains numerous recommendations for structural changes in the Department that could save millions of dollars annually. Any serious effort to reduce the SFFD budget must address these big ticket items. Sacrificing this important piece of SF history is not the answer.
There are other properties on the chopping block that may be appropriate for sale. A SFFD property on 19th Avenue is currently being leased for
one-dollar-a-year by Julie Lee's "Neighborhood Resource Center." As revealed by Channel 7's investigative report last week, the supposed
neighborhood center is barely ever open to the neighborhood. The dollar-a-year lease is pure pork, awarded to Lee because of her ties to
Mayors Brown and Newsom. Chief Hayes-White estimates that the property is worth approximately $1.5 million. And unlike the Oak Street
firehouse, the 19th Avenue property has no particular historical significance. This is the type of property that should be sold.
As for Old Station 21, its fate may soon rest in the hands of the Fire Commission. Chief Hayes-White must return to the Commission for a
determination that the building is "surplus" in order for the sale to move forward. Neighbors have vowed to stop the sale of this historic
To learn more about this issue, contact Richard Kay at email@example.com.