At the Animal Care and Control groundbreaking
Bunny Rosenberg escorted Fievel to today's Animal Care and Control groundbreaking in the Mission. Fievel is 8 years old, weighs 2.5 pounds, and can be yours if you visit Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Photo by Joe Eskenazi

A symbolic groundbreaking in the rain is well and truly symbolic. A cubic yard of soil is carted in from off-site and dumped in a pile beneath a large tent. A handful of hard hat-wearing city dignitaries, including the mayor, turn it over with too-clean shovels. And then it’s hauled elsewhere on the construction site and used for backfill.

That’s what happened this morning at the future Mission District home of the Animal Care and Control shelter at Bryant and Division. The only difference is that the hard hats today came equipped with cute little animal ears — and the festivities were taken in by a cavalcade of four-legged attendees, many of whom would gladly go home with you.

To answer the questions many of you may be thinking of but are too embarrassed to ask: No, no dogs jumped on the mayor, fought, or left inopportune turds in inopportune places. Today’s groundbreaking went as planned. Even the dour weather enabled “raining cats and dogs” puns to be made.

The Animal Care and Control shelter’s new home at 1419 Bryant St. will, when completed, not look much different than it does now. Or ever did: The red brick façade structure was erected in 1894 by the Market Street Railway and has, for much of the 20th and 21st centuries, served as a Muni maintenance facility. You can’t take a sledgehammer to a 19th-century façade, but you sure can gut the interior — and that’s the plan. Animal Care and Control obtained the site in a trade with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. MTA will take possession of the current Animal Shelter, a stone’s throw away on 15th Street, but the operations it currently runs out of Bryant Street are being relocated to Bayview. It is yet to be determined what MTA will do with the 15th Street structure.

The 15th Street shelter, Animal Control officials said today, is outmoded and past-date on seismic standards. Repairing and upgrading it from the inside would have been onerous. Gutting and revamping the structure at 1419 Bryant St. was an easier operation.

When completed, ostensibly in 2021, the new shelter will feature improved ventilation, improved cleaning systems, and improved noise and odor control. That’s a must: The shelter houses some 10,000 animals a year, ranging from dogs and cats to rodents, lizards, birds, goats, pigs, and God knows what else.

This is a $76.5 million project.

And now, what you really want: Photos of the animals.

Coco the guinea pig took in today’s event. Yes, Coco is as big as Fievel. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.
This is Falcor. He’s only 4.5 months old, so he’s going to grow into those ears. He can be yours if you visit Golden State German Shepherd Rescue. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.
Animal Control volunteer Chris Johnson wants you to meet Terrie, a two-year-old terrier mix. She is described as a “fancy prancer” and adoptable. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.
Animal Control workers couldn’t help themselves and took groundbreaking photos of their own after the mayor and others had decamped. This was described to me as “a cubic yard” of dirt. And, while land in San Francisco is the most valuable in all the world, dirt is not: You can get it for $8 to $15 per cubic yard. Yes, that’s dirt cheap. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.
When completed, the new Animal Control shelter won’t look so different on the outside. On the inside, though, there will be changes. And lots more dogs. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.

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Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. This is a really disappointing puff piece on an outrageous boondoggle, overseen by an executive director of Animal Care and Control, Virginia Donohue, with a shocking conflict of interest in owning a private, for-profit animal boarding and dog training business. Nobody knows, or is willing to admit, what the real cost of the project is. The cost with interest was projected to be $110 million before the cost soared by another $21 million in early 2018 (and that’s without the interest on that $21 million). Compare that to the new shelter in Orange County for $35 million — on ten acres. AND THE NEW SAN FRANCISCO SHELTER IS DESIGNED TO HOUSE FEWER ANIMALS THAN THE CURRENT FACILITY. I look for journalism at Mission Local, not transcribed press releases.

    At least do some homework:

    1. Yeah, uh we don’t live in orange county. The decision they made was more cost effective than other solutions. Don’t punish the homeless animals for the problem you have with a woman. Shelters aren’t meant to permanently house animals.

      1. “we don’t live in orange county”

        The project manager on the SFACC project clearly thought the comparison was relevant, as noted in the linked video. And while it may be less expensive than San Francisco in some respects, I don’t think you will find anyone claiming Orange County is cheap.

        “The decision they made was more cost effective than other solutions”

        Please show me the project analysis conducted comparing a new construction on land available at Hunters Point or elsewhere — as John Denny suggested in the linked video — with the approved project. I’ve looked through the Public Works documents and can find no such document. These are POLITICAL decisions. But feel free to do your own research. All the Public Works documents are available online (the request number 18-3939 is the crucial part here):

        “Don’t punish the homeless animals…”

        I reiterate: THE NEW FACILITY IS DESIGNED TO HOUSE FEWER CATS AND DOGS THAN THE CURRENT FACILITY. You can see in this Public Works document that the actual number is 84 dogs versus 107 now, and 138 cats versus 151 now (for a growing City population of humans and animals):

        Are you suggesting that it’s a good idea to have less housing for homeless animals since it’s not permanent?

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