Controversial San Mateo Jail Plans Racking Up Unexpected Costs

For Immediate Release—October 23, 2012

Controversial San Mateo Jail Plans Racking Up Unexpected Costs

Community Members Question Environmental Impact

Press Contact:    Isaac Ontiveros

                            Californians United for a Responsible Budget


Redwood City—At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Supervisors approved an unexpected 77% increase in funding for extra environmental testing of toxic soil at the new jail site.  A part of the new jail site, 70 Chemical Way, currently has a restricted covenant issued by the Department of Toxic Substances and Control that prohibits building for residential use because the soil is contaminated with multiple volatile organic compounds that are known to cause severe illness and possible death.

“The supervisors green-lighted a jail on a toxic waste site, where incredibly elaborate and expensive measures need to be taken so as not to put workers, prisoners, and the broader San Mateo community at deadly risk,” says Emily Harris, Statewide Coordinator of Californians United for a Responsible Budget. “At the same time, they put countless residents in jeopardy by planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new jail that will drain resources from life-saving services for decades to come.

The Board authorized an additional $70,000 of funding for consultants Engeo, Inc., because more soil than was expected is needed.  The Sheriff’s report states that Engeo will need to “perform additional laboratory testing of soil samples for Natural Occurring Asbestos and to consult with the Bay Area Air Quality Management Bureau.”  Community members demanded that the Board of Supervisors cancel the jail.

“If history teaches us anything, this is the just the first of the ‘unexpected’ costs for this new jail. What we can expect is this jail will cost us years of our lives and the lives of our family members and communities,” says Manuel la Fontaine, organizer with All of Us or None and resident of Daly City.  “We can expect that this jail will be filled primarily with poor and working class people of color, and that the Board of Supervisors would rather invest in locking those communities in cages than in providing the community-based mental health and housing support that would create real and lasting safety.”

With the jail approved in the budget, residents express concerns about the continued misallocation of county resources and committed to defeating the jail tax (measure A) that will be on the November ballot.


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