Special efforts were made by many people during the time following the earthquake. The Department's radio operator, Rose Charles, ran the Central Control Radio operation throughout the night following the earthquake with her two year old baby sitting on her lap. She not only ran the radio system, she controlled it. People from outside San Francisco told me that they could monitor our transmissions during the emergency and they never once heard any hint of panic or loss of patience. This is a tribute to both the people on the other end of the radio and to Rose for her evenhanded style.
Larry Butler relieved Rose and he has been an apt pupil because he maintained the same style of operation.
One of our other employees also exhibited special character.
During the early evening hours, he participated in the rescue of a person trapped in a fire. When we get this all worked out, he will be appropriately recognized.
The Building Inspectors reported to the Army Street yard for emergency duty. From here, they were dispatched to various parts of the City to evaluate buildings. The buildings included hospitals, care facilities, fire and police stations, and whatever else needed looking at. Their space at the Yard was the lunchroom. The only telephone was a pay phone. One of the clerks used this phone for many hours as the main dispatch control. Dark, airless, and uncomfortable as it was, she made the most of what she had.
DPW people provided a traveling gas station for the Fire Department. The fire scene in the Marina was a very intense operation. Many fire vehicles were on the line and, after several hours, they began to run low on fuel. Using pick-up trucks, 55 gallon drums, Art Dahl led a team that refueled the fire vehicles on the fire line. They also carried diesel fuel and coal oil to convalescent hospitals around the City that had heating problems that were harmful to their patients.
of the most difficult tasks was dealing with the people that had lost their
homes. We established a processing facility at the Marina Middle School.
People were registered and then taken to a classroom where they were told
of the damage to their homes and, in some cases, were told that their homes
were too dangerous to enter. Those buildings that were too dangerous to
enter were red-
I was the one that had to tell them the bad news and explain the rules for visiting their homes. This was most difficult and heartrending as many people were faced with total loss of everything they held dear.
Most received the news with heroic calm, and then marched out of the room with two inspectors to visit their homes and, if lucky, were able to enter their homes for 15 minutes to try to recover whatever valuables they could carry out. The Building Inspectors that provided this escort service made many trips with many different People under very difficult conditions. They often had to provide a sort of counseling to the residents who had trouble dealing with the losses. One thing stands out in my memory of the times I met with the people in the classroom. Depending on the hat I wore, I received different reactions from the people. When I wore my hard hat, I felt resentment - perhaps like a policeman feels in a large unruly crowd. Bareheaded in a suit, I was treated like an unwanted Bureaucrat, yet, when I wore my DPW baseball cap, I was warmly received and felt like I was important to them.
Another task that was very difficult was ordering the demolition of a building. Fortunately, this did not happen very often. Leo Conte of the Golden Gate Disposal Co. offered the services of his company to assist people in recovering their belongings. As buildings were torn down, residents, assisted by dedicated Conservation Corps men and women, searched through the debris. After the debris was hauled to the landfill, it was again searched by the landfill operator's employees. Whatever was recovered was bagged by address and taken to Fort Mason where Rich Cunningham and Suzanne Drabble provided assistance to people to see if any of their belongings had been recovered. Unfortunately, there was not much, but, what there was, was well received.
The damage to the utilities in the Marina was severe. Eleven miles of gas lines were broken, water mains and sewers and phone lines were likewise disrupted, and there was severe damage to the roadways. PG&E estimated that it would be late December or early January before gas service could be restored, and then only if they worked around the clock. I felt that the hours between midnight and 6:00 a.m. should be kept free from the noise of construction. That because of people's need for a little peace and quiet and for safety's sake, 6:00 a.m. to midnight made for a long enough day. I directed my Assistant, Joann Cooney, to assemble a DPW SWAT team to lead and coordinate the restoration of utilities and facilities to and from the marina. The effort was most successful. People who could return home were able to cook their Thanksgiving dinners in their homes. As of the present (January 1990), we are putting the finishing touches on the repaving of streets and sidewalks. The other utility work is complete.
The Marina presented the most concentrated damage of any area of the City, so it made good sense to establish a base of operations there. Fortunately, the school administration had ordered several portable classrooms because they planned to do some repairs in the school. These made great temporary offices once they had power and phones. They were occupied by members of various City staffs, the SFCC, and the Red Cross. Because of the close quarters, long hours, and often tense conditions, I established a code of conduct and work rules that Mrs. Cooney strictly enforced. This was necessary to maintain a sense of dignity and Stability for people whose lives had been turned upside down. The Middle School site served as a good base of Operations, but it is now closed, except for one trailer to house those working on final repairs.
of the most eerie times was early in the morning of the 18th. At about
6:00 a.m., I drove through the streets of Chinatown, North Beach, and the
Tenderloin looking for signs of damage. This is that time of day when people
start to stir on the streets in that half-
This reminds me of the tragic loss of five homes on Shotwell Street. Five doll house Victorians that had apparently not been tied to their foundations were tossed about like toys and made uninhabitable. To further add to the damage, three of these buildings were subsequently badly damaged in a fire of suspicious origin. These houses are about at the edge of the old shoreline as described in an early survey of San Francisco.
All demolitions were difficult to order. We hired two outside, independent, engineering firms to assist us in evaluating badly damaged buildings. one factor that complicated the issue was that of historical significance. This often slowed the process and, in my opinion, presented some very dangerous situations. Of course there are those who will take advantage of anything at all and try to get whatever edge they can. I do believe that we dealt with the demolitions fairly, with compassion, and with concern for all involved.
Marina made for many visitors - President Bush, Vice-
final thought, on the Saturday following the earthquake, we found out that
the front was gradually falling off of a building on lower Mission Street.
We were concerned because the owner was not taking action to protect passersby
and we needed to keep the street open for traffic, especially busses. Muni
runs a heavy service along Mission Street. I suggested the owner wrap the
building in a chain-
are still finding damaged buildings and are still processing permits for
repair work. Recently, there has been a series of water main breaks which
may have some relationship to conditions caused by the earthquake. I think
that as Old Mother Earth settles herself back into place, there will be
more failures of the infrastructure that is below ground, that which remains
hidden from our view until it manifests itself by a hole in the street.
One thing for certain, this gives us good cause to raise the public's concern
about the condition of those utilities and facilities we rely on, yet pay
so little attention to in the way of maintenance.