Economic Development

Bay Property, Sleeps 6,000

Real estate values may condemn San Quentin.
by | March 2005
 

Scott Peterson is all set to move into a gated community located on a fabulous waterfront site abutting San Francisco Bay. Granted, the convicted murderer won't have a room with a view, but plenty of people in Marin County see a different future than housing criminals for the prime real estate occupied by San Quentin State Prison.

Local developers, who have lusted after the 432-acre site for decades, have finally persuaded some public officials to look at the prison as a "tear-down." The county has commissioned a $50,000 study to kick around conversion ideas, with the most popular one so far being a transit hub--San Quentin sits at the foot of the Richmond Bridge--combined with housing and other uses. Steve Kinsey, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, and state Representative Joe Nation are meeting with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to lay out their plans.

State law requires that death-row inmates be housed at San Quentin, but boosters say that's a minor issue that the legislature can dispense with. The state Department of Corrections already has been authorized to spend $220 million to modernize the facility, but that fact, too, is used as an argument for building a new prison for less money in some less-affluent corner of the state.

"The prison has become more of a burden in the prison system than a help," says Jim Deboo, Nation's spokesman. Prison guards can't afford to live in Marin, which is one of the most expensive locations in the state. "In some places in California," says Edward Segal of the Marin Association of Realtors, "a state prison would be regarded as an economic bonanza because of the jobs and services that people would provide to the inmates." But not in Marin.

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