Funds that were earmarked for the redevelopment of the long abandoned Market Street Railway substation on the southwest corner of Fillmore and Turk were diverted to a (failed) bailout of the club, restaurant and parking garage across the street back in 2009, at which point the since disbanded Redevelopment Agency deeded the substation back to the City.

Four months ago the city received an online complaint via the City’s 311 system that the top corner of building, which has sat ever since being deeded back to the City, “is very cracked,” with the complainer noting, it “might fall down.”

After four months of research, referrals, inspections and processing, the Department of Public Works has just issued an emergency repair order for the substation, noting that “an emergency exists that requires temporary repair to be completed as soon as possible,” with cracks in the unreinforced masonry wall at the northwest corner of the building posing “a significant collapse hazard to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists below.” So heads up.

Built in 1902, the Fillmore substation survived the Great Quake and Fire and supplied power to the united railroads of San Francisco, Market Street Railway and then MUNI coaches, until 1978 when it was deemed surplus and shuttered. And while the noted cracks in the building were visible back in 2009, when the funds for its redevelopment were diverted, the cracks have since grown.

25 thoughts on “Historic Neighborhood Substation at Risk of a Collapse”
  1. Why is it so hard to take care of basic infrastructure needs in a city with an annual budget of 13 billion?

    Such waste of a really nifty building. It would make a fantastic market hall if it was in a first world country.

    1. I think it’s rather small for a market hall – my guestimate is ~3-4000sf – but I agree usage better than a canvas for grafitti could be found.

  2. My we infer, from the headline, that SS doesn’t have confidence said “emergency repair” will take place ??

  3. This is a good example of a utility/industrial building worthy of saving and redeveloping. The interior light must be fantastic with those huge windows.

    1. Per the historical material (see above) there’s also a skylight. But the lofty, well-lighted space isn’t at street level: there’s a short – 10′ – first floor, with the main room beginning at the first belt course…which I would think complicates finding a reuse for it.

      1. Well maybe get Sparky-b on the job, I recall him describing how major gut remodels often raise or lower floors and ceilings to meet modern needs. And the seismic retrofit will likely result in gutting much of the interior anyways.

        Here’s an example of a similar building repurposed as a restaurant and it worked out really well.

          1. Yeah, that Pier 70 power plant building is also really nice and glad to see it is being renovated. I had the privilege of touring that building and several others on Pier 70 before renovation started, thanks to a tip from Socketsite.

            The adjacent office building on the corner is also quite nice though unfortunately metal thieves had already disfigured much of the period brass ornamentation.

        1. This seems more like the Geneva Train Barn. Muni sold it to Park and Rec in 2004 to turn it into something. Still hasn’t happened.

          Also, yes you could change the floor plates since they will come out during seismic, but that lower level looks like it has windows all around and would be very usable. The top floor probably is very tall ceilings already so the using both floor seems like a better plan for 2045.

          [Editor’s Note: Rebirth of Geneva Car Barn Building Ready to Roll (in 2016).]

          1. Finally found an interior photo. Which looks, I guess, like we’d expect it to, and yet another complication: the rotary converters – which I believe they are, but correct me if I’m wrong – will probably need to be removed…which will be no small expense.

  4. Planned demolition by neglect. Empty 43 years and the City has done zero. No doubt it will be gone this next year with plans for a 10 story featureless concrete box approved.

  5. I remember walking right by this Muni powerhouse around 6 – 6:30pm on Oct 17, 1989 (from Fillmore and Lombard St to Noe Valley – no electricity – no 22 buses). There were broken windows and some glass and other debris on the sidewalk. If that quake had been longer than 15 seconds….

    Hope Muni can save it.

  6. FYI, the City (Rec & Park) has left the Palace of Fine Arts without a long term tenant (i.e., an entity willing to invest in it) and it is, similarly, at risk of being lost since this neglect has left it without the seismic work necessary to save it when the next big one hits.

    Socketsite should do an article on the vacant Palace of Fine Arts — the most visited tourist site in the entire City — and the failure of Rec & Park to properly manage this incredible historic asset.

    [Editor’s Note: The Top Three Proposals for Repurposing the Palace of Fine Arts (in 2015).]

  7. The simple answer to all this, is that since there was no way for Mo-Mo to line his pockets, the work never got done.

    Also how many years are we into Rose Pak’s Subway to nowhere? 11?? The Van Ness Busway Repave 5??

    1. The “subway to nowhere” which is actually part subway and mostly street level operation will have terminals at Sunnydale and Washington St in Chinatown. That’s about 7 miles of “nowhere” in between?

      This link on Central Subway testing (with videos) and anticipated start of service was posted Aug 3 on the SFMTA website.

      1. Nomenclature aside, I believe the chronology is correct, no? At least if you start from the groundbreaking (in 2010) ’til now. Alternately one could start from the effective start of construction (2012-13ish) and compare the original planned opening (2018) to the latest (2022). So a five year construction period to one twice as long.

        OTOIH, something was actually done.

        1. Have lived in the city since 1969. *Everything* seems to take forever here. The gradual opening of the 5 Muni Metro lines was done at a snail’s pace. The “subway to nowhere” claim though makes me bristle. BRT on Van Ness is supposed to be completed and in operation by “early in 2022” according to SFMTA. Making no bets.

  8. This structure is pretty similar to the Geneva Powerhouse, also inherited by Muni in 1944 from its former private competitor, Market Street Railway, and also transferred to Rec & Park early this century. That structure has just reopened as a community space, and it’s great. (They’re seeking funds to expand into the adjacent historic office building now.)

    Redoing a unreinforced masonry powerhouse like this requires a complete gutting and, essentially, construction of a standalone new building inside the brick walls. But you end up with fabulous space. The Geneva project got a big boost because of strong support from the district supervisor. Seeing the the Mayor represented the Turk and Fillmore building’s district and grew up there, may we expect some help from her to create a community center there like the Excelsior District now has at Geneva?

  9. Why does it take a complaint lodged to 311 to get the city to take care of their property? Would they allow a private property to fall into such a state of disrepair?

  10. If there’s anybody listening my name is Clifton and I have a idea for the substation on Fillmore and Turk [but] I do not want to put my ideas out in the public yet… I am an artist in the Fillmore I have great ideas for the substation building just need someone to pay attention it could help the community it could very much help San Francisco.

  11. With the Webster Safeway closing, the substation should be renovated into a grocery store. That would be a truly needed use as opposed to a pipe dream community center.

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