Anti-jail protesters show up to oppose project moving forward.

Supes Suggest Light, Airy New Jail Designs

By Austin Walsh from the South San Francisco Patch

The current jail facility on Bradford Street is over capacity. Credit Stacie Chan

Activists again clashed with the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors Tuesday over proposed design strategies for the new jail that is to be built in Redwood City.

As was the case at a previous meeting last month, signs touting “No New San Mateo County Jail” smattered the room while supervisors met with Sheriff Greg Munks and representatives from the architecture firm hired to help develop the new prison.

And while supervisors provided feedback to the design firm HOK about what kind of look would be most appealing for the new jail, anti-prison advocates pled to halt the project’s construction.

“It is not too late to stop building this jail,” said Emily Harris, a representative of Californians United for a Responsible Budget, during the public comment portion of the meeting held in the board chambers at the County Center in Redwood City.

Harris was one of about five speakers who attended the meeting to protest the jail construction. Others also echoed the same sentiment, advocating for the county leadership to consider not moving forward with the jail construction.

But little of the discussion between the supervisors, Munks and design firm representatives indicated that the progress on the project would slow, despite the expected total cost of building the new jail to range between $100 and $165 million.

As well, the project’s annual operating expense is projected to be about $44 million, but the county budget deficit still looms somewhere near $50 million this year.

Regardless, according to project manager Jeff Goodell from HOK architecture, the rights to build the prison will likely go out to bid to construction firms in the spring. The time before will be spent planning the design, look and feel of the new jail.

According to the discussion Tuesday, supervisors said they favored jail designs that were light and airy that featured a lot of natural light, while they opposed those that offered a lot of negative space.

“I don’t like the idea of jails that look like warehouses for people,” said Supervisor Don Horsley.

Supervisors also discussed the types of programs and opportunities that would be offered inmates that would help them hone skills and talents while serving time.

Culinary arts, horticulture, technology and recycling were proposed by supervisors as the type of programs that inmates could participate in.

“The real goal is to reduce recidivism,” said Supervisor Adrienne Tissier.

Supervisors took no official action at the meeting yesterday, but the feedback provided will be used by architects to develop new designs of the jail.

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