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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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March 2022

San Francisco’s newest fire station floats on the Bay and is like no other in the world, built to withstand major earthquakes and sea-level rise.

FEATURE STORIES

New Floating Fire Station
Floats Our Boat

This month we celebrated the completion of San Francisco’s new floating Fireboat Station No. 35, an innovative project that meets the present-day needs of maritime-based operations for the City's firefighters.

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Volunteers Come Out in Force
to Love Our City

Nearly 200 people kicked off the inaugural season of our new volunteer program – Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day. 

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New Plaza is a Real Treat

Today, a new public plaza now exists where there once was an unwieldy intersection. The goal of the makeover: to create a vibrant community hub.

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Plan to Advance Biodiversity in Western SF Gets Funding Boost

The Sunset Natural Resilience Project, an initiative to restore the wildlife corridors of western San Francisco, recently received a $555,000 grant to support the effort. 

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Going with the Flow: SF Opens First Designated Tai Chi Court

San Francisco has its first dedicated tai chi court, located on a converted parking lot in McLaren Park. The 4,500-square-foot site offers expansive views of downtown San Francisco.

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San Francisco’s

New Floating

Fire Station

Floats Our Boat

 

SFFD’s fireboat, the St. Francis, sprays Bay water at the celebration marking completion of Station No. 35.

This month we celebrated the completion of San Francisco’s new floating Fireboat Station No. 35, an innovative project that meets the present-day needs of maritime-based operations for the City's firefighters.

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As the City’s newest fire station and the only one located directly on the San Francisco waterfront, the facility is built to remain functional during and after a major earthquake and adapt to projected sea-level rise.  

The view from the fireboat station’s kitchen looks north towards the Ferry Building. The small dots on the window will help deter birds from flying into the glass.

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Located at Pier 22 ½, just north of the Bay Bridge, the new San Francisco Fire Department station is home to the City’s fleet of fireboats and marine rescue watercraft and serves as the living quarters for on-duty crews. 

The St. Francis, one of three fireboats in the City’s fleet, ties up outside the new station.

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The two-story, 14,900-square-foot structure, built on top of a 173-foot-long-by-96-foot-wide steel float, is moored to four steel piles that are 150 feet long and anchored deep into the Bay floor. This design lets the structure rise and fall with the natural tides of the Bay, King Tides and projected sea-level rise, allowing for just over 15 feet of vertical movement.  

Architectural renderings of the floating fire station.

Developed especially for San Francisco, there is no fire station like it in the world.

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San Francisco Public Works managed the project on behalf of the San Francisco Fire Department. The work was carried out by Swinerton-Power JV team made up of Power Engineering Construction Co., Swinerton, Shah Kawasaki Architects and Liftech Consultants.

Crews install one of the four piles that keep Station No. 35 from floating away.

The project has a unique trajectory. 

The float – or foundation –  for Fireboat Station No. 35 was manufactured in Nantong, China, on the northern bank of the Yangtze River.  

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The completed float was transported some 5,336 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean to Treasure Island’s Pier 1 in the middle of San Francisco Bay, landing in January 2020. There, the actual fire station was built on top of the float.  

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Tugboats, working in the dead of night when the tides were just right, next guided it to Pier 22 ½ on The Embarcadero in December 2020 for final buildout and utility hookups.  

Tugboats usher the float, topped by the new fire station, across the Bay in the pre-dawn hours on December 3, 2020.

Fifteen months later, on March 10, 2022, Mayor London Breed led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to fete the finished project. 

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Station No. 35 supports a rotating staff of 21 uniformed SFFD personnel, with seven on duty at any given time.  

Docked outside the new station are the City’s three fireboats – the St. Francis, the Guardian and the Phoenix. Not only are they deployed for on-water emergencies, such as capsized boats, distressed swimmers and bridge jumpers, they also are responsible for fighting fires on or along the Bay that are inaccessible to land-based apparatus. The boats combatted the fires caused by the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 and the Pier 45 blaze in 2020.  

The $50.5 million Fireboat Station No. 35 rebuild project was funded by San Francisco’s voter-approved Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response (ESER) bond program that funds critical improvements to emergency-response infrastructure to make it more resistant to earthquakes and other natural disasters. 

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The project did not involve any alterations to the historic Fire Station No. 35 building, which is designated as San Francisco Landmark No. 225 and is also a contributing resource to the Port of San Francisco Embarcadero National Register Historic District. The old firehouse located on the land fronting the new floating station, was constructed in 1915 for the Pan-Pacific International Exposition and will continue to house a fire engine and be used to store equipment.  

The historic firehouse will remain in place, housing a fire engine and equipment.

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In addition to the new fireboat station, the project supported new public artwork commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

The new public artwork, titled Bow, includes panels with images that highlight the history of the fireboats. Photo: ©Ethan Kaplan Photography

Titled Bow, the public art by artist and landscape architect Walter Hood of the Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, creates an observation platform on Pier 22 ½ that offers visitors majestic views of the Bay and Bay Bridge. The art piece, made of wood, painted steel, aluminum and glass, suggests the bow of a boat. It is partially enclosed by translucent panels with images and quotes highlighting the history of the fireboats. 

This unique building project demonstrates San Francisco’s use of innovation to bolster our resiliency. With the ocean and Bay bordering San Francisco on three sides, the fireboats are vital to the protection of our coastal neighborhoods and open-water rescues. Designed to meet challenges today and into the future, Fireboat Station No. 35 will serve the City for generations.

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San Francisco’s fireboats protect the City’s waterfront. (Photo courtesy SFFD)

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Mayor London Breed, City Administrator Carmen Chu, Supervisor Shamann Walton and Brian Wiedenmeier,

Executive Director of Friends of the Urban Forest, join the Public Works team to plant an oak tree.

Volunteers Come Out in Force to
#LoveOurCity!

Bayview-Hunters Point got greener this month with the addition of more than 100 trees planted by our staff and volunteers in celebration of Arbor Day.

Nearly 200 people participated in the March 12 event that kicked off the inaugural season of our new volunteer program – Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day.

 

The timing of the launch comes as San Francisco emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a two-year pause on Public Works’ large-scale volunteer activities.

 

We began the morning at Heron’s Head Park where we heard from Mayor London Breed and Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton who both carried the same message: Step up, pitch in and help improve our neighborhoods. They then grabbed shovels and planted a young oak nearby on Cargo Way

The community came together to celebrate Arbor Day.

New trees also went into the ground along Evans, Jamestown and Oakdale avenues. Other landscape maintenance work took place at Heron’s Head Park, Keith Street and at the Bayview Gateway at Third and Meade streets.

One Saturday each month, Public Works concentrates on one of the 11 supervisorial districts, bringing together citywide and neighborhood volunteers. Work focuses on greening projects, whether planting trees, weeding and planting public gardens or sprucing up the roadway medians. Work also may include painting out graffiti and picking up litter.

An arborist in the making! This young volunteer helps prepare the ground for a young tree.

Volunteers work alongside our crews, as well as a lot of off-duty Public Works employees who want to give back to the communities we serve.

Next month, on April 9, we’ll be in District 7 neighborhoods, among them Miraloma Park, Lakeside and West Portal. The kickoff is at Lowell High School, 1101 Eucalyptus Drive. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. Click on this link to sign up, or visit sfpublicworks.org/loveourcity.

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Treat Plaza boasts new public seating and drought-tolerant plants.

This New Plaza
is a Real Treat

The intersection of Treat Avenue,16th Street and Harrison Street has changed a lot throughout history.

Mission Creek used to run through the site and still flows underground. As San Francisco grew, a rail line extended along what is now Treat Avenue. The result: wide roadways, narrow sidewalks and a strange geometry that created a dangerous crossing for people who walk, bike and drive.

But no longer.

 

Today, a new public plaza now exists where there once was an unwieldy intersection. The goal of the makeover: to create a vibrant community hub.

This project demonstrates how we can harness the passion of neighbors and smart design to make our streets safer and more inviting.

The plaza, created by widening the Treat Avenue sidewalk, includes new public seating and plaza paving. The paving, with its hued blue and curvy geometric pattern, evokes a connection to the old Mission Creek that now flows belowground. New landscaping includes jacaranda and wilga trees, as well as drought-tolerant plants, such as fescue, sea lavender and kangaroo paw.

 

The new plants and trees, as well as seat walls, buffer people from traffic and provide flexible framing for community events and informal gatherings.

Everyone who attended the Treat Plaza celebration was invited to join in a ceremonial land-dedication dance.

Public Works landscape architects designed the plaza and our infrastructure construction management team oversaw the building of it. City partners included San Francisco Planning and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Neighbors, both businesses and residents, set the priorities for the new space during a robust community outreach process.

 

The nonprofit Livable City will activate the space with hosted events involving artists, musicians, crafts vendors, cultural celebrations, fitness classes and the like.

The festivities kicked off on March 26 with a community celebration that included a land acknowledgement ceremony hosted by the American Indian Cultural Center and live musical performances.

Drummer Manny Lieras, of Navajo and Comanche heritage, and dancers from the Rosales Family

of the Ojibwe Nation pay tribute to the land’s Native American history.

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Sunset Boulevard, the green corridor seen here, is part of an ambitious project to improve biodiversity in San Francisco’s western neighborhoods.

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Plan to Advance Biodiversity in Western SF Gets Funding Boost

A 4,150-acre area bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Sunset Boulevard to the east, Fort Funston to the south and the Presidio to the north is being targeted by a collaborative group of nonprofit organizations and community groups to advance three goals: expand urban greening, restore sand dunes and develop a wildlife connectivity corridor in western San Francisco.

The ambitious initiative, known as the Sunset Natural Resilience Project, contains six distinct yet interconnected projects. The State Coastal Conservancy awarded the San Francisco Estuary Institute a $555,000 grant to support the project.

Beneficiaries of the funding include San Francisco Public Works, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, Presidio Trust, San Francisco Unified School District, California Native Plant Society, Climate Action Now! and the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone. The state funding will be used to draft guidelines to accomplish the three goals.

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Brian Lease, from our Bureau of Urban Forestry, works with students to plant native wildflowers in the Sunset District.

“This will serve as an innovative example of a scientific-driven and community-based planning approach that could serve as a model for resilient landscapes,” said Jennifer Cooper, who leads the Public Works Bureau of Landscape Architecture.

 

The grant will support Public Works’ ongoing project, the Sunset Boulevard Biodiversity Master Plan, that aims to nurture a robust habitat corridor for plants and animals both to improve biodiversity and to make San Francisco’s dense urban environment a more livable, enjoyable and resilient space.

The Sunset Boulevard corridor, a 2-mile stretch, contains more than 40 acres of open space in its collective medians and connects some of the City’s major open spaces: Golden Gate Park, Lake Merced and Fort Funston.

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The Sunset Natural Resilience Project aims to restore sand dunes along the western edge of San Francisco.

Some work done already includes initial native tree and plant planting and the installation of rain gardens to improve stormwater management. Planned projects include nature play spaces and community gardens.

 

The grant will fund the preparation of design recommendations for such things as which native plants and trees should be planted, the optimal distance between green spaces along the corridor in order to maintain habitat functionality and how to reduce vehicle disturbance to wildlife. The recommendations are scheduled to be drafted this year. Public Works, meanwhile, is identifying and securing additional funding to implement the strategies.

In addition to Sunset Boulevard, the five other projects included in the state grant are:

  • A.P. Giannini Middle School Green Infrastructure Project

  • Ramaytush Ohlone Garden Restoration

  • Wildlife Connectivity and Western San Francisco Quail Reintroduction

  • Ocean Beach Dune Restoration

  • Great Highway Revisioning

 

Click here for more details on Sunset Natural Resilience Project grant.

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Tai chi practitioners demonstrate their moves at the dedication ceremony for the new court. (Photo courtesy of SF Rec and Park)

Going with the Flow: SF Opens First Designated Tai Chi Court

From the blacktop of a Chinatown playground to the top of Strawberry Hill in the middle of Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake, practitioners of the centuries-old tai chi martial art can be found moving through the series of slow-paced and graceful movements.

And now San Francisco has its first dedicated tai chi court, located on a converted parking lot in McLaren Park. The 4,500-square-foot site offers expansive views of downtown San Francisco. Low berms offer protection from the wind.

The $1.6 million Recreation and Park Department project was funded through the voter-backed 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond.

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These two tai chi practitioners use swords, which are thought to increase the body’s energy and upper-body strength and balance.

Public Works provided construction management services though our Building Design and Construction division. Our ADA team made sure the project meets accessibility requirements and our Materials Testing Lab provided compaction and concrete testing support.

The Mansell Tai Chi Court is located on John F. Shelley Drive near Mansell Street and was identified as a top priority in the McLaren Park Vision Plan.

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The location of the new tai chi court offers sweeping views of the downtown skyline.

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