City morgue begins anew in Hunters Point

San Francisco’s Hall of Justice is old, seismically unsafe, and sometimes has problems with leaking sewage.

One city department though is on its way out of the dilapidated building’s basement and into a new brand new state of the art facility in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.

Following the footsteps of the San Francisco Police Department, who left the Hall of Justice back in 2015 for a new headquarters in Mission Bay, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is now moving into new 46,000 square foot building.

On Thursday at 1 Newhall Street, city officials held a ribbon cutting to officially welcome The City’s medical examiner’s office.

Mohammed Nuru, director of the Public Works department, said the new facility was a voter-supported project through the passage of the 2014 $400 million Earthquake Safety and Emergency Response Bond, which helped fund the project:

“For us, it’s a once in a generation opportunity to create the game changing new home for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”

The total cost of the project was $65 million.

Mayor Ed Lee said that, during a tour of the old office with Dr. Michael Hunter, who was then just a candidate for the chief medical examiner position, Lee acknowledged that the facility — in the basement of 850 Bryant — was subpar:

“You can’t have parents and families of people who want to know what happened on any incident be disrespected in the basement of the Hall of Justice or sometimes waiting for weeks, in fact months, to have some dignity for what happened.”

Lee added:

“You can’t have less than professional standards operating in that office.”

The $65 million facility features a new forensic toxicology laboratory, a modern autopsy suite, and new work stations for investigators.

Artwork is also featured in the family room where medical examiner staff speak with family members and at the entrance of the building. Officials said the artwork provides a more peaceful and tranquil environment for family members who are grieving.

Hunter, hired in 2015 as The City’s chief medical examiner, said the new facility will allow the office to carry out its duties more effectively and efficiently:

“The new seismically, safe facility will enable The City to be at the very forefront of forensic sciences and allow us to fulfill the mission we have to the citizens of San Francisco today and long, long, long into the future, and that’s what this facility is going to allow us to do.”