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  • Writer's pictureMSNASF

Neighbors demand DTSC, TNDC and City Hall "Clean It Up Before You Build It Up"

In 2019 a series of environmental investigations—sparked by the potential sale of the Police Credit Union building at 2550 Irving St. to affordable housing developer, TNDC—disclosed the presence of hazardous levels of PCE, a cancer-causing solvent used by dry cleaners. During the period from 1929 to 2016, two different dry cleaners had operated on that block and caused releases of PCE into the subsurface that then spread out as a plume through the neighborhood. The attached map shows the PCE plume as a bulls-eye that has spread radially from Irving—sometimes into neighbors’ houses.

PCE Soil Vapor Plume, 2500 Block of Irving Street, 12-15 Feet
PCE Soil Vapor Plume, 2500 Block of Irving Street, 12-15 Feet

For three years the Mid-Sunset Neighborhood Association (MSNA) has asked city and state

agencies to address the contamination issue promptly and comprehensively. From the mayor’s office to many media outlets, MSNA’s pleas have largely been ignored or dismissed as a NIMBY tactic. The community has continually emphasized that its concerns are not aimed at stopping or delaying the construction of the affordable housing project. Rather, their rallying cry is "Clean it up BEFORE you build it up."

The SF Examiner published a good background article with the headline The First 100% Affordable Housing in the Sunset Sits on Contaminated Soil.

Nearby resident Paul Holzman explained, "This protest is not trying to stop or delay the building. The state environmental agency overseeing the site, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), admitted that its failure to require cleanup is largely the result of a legal loophole, embodied in the CLRRA (California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act) Agreement it signed in February, 2021 with the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC). This loophole could easily be closed. If this project receives city funding without a cleanup, the City is complicit in the failure to protect the health of the future residents of 2550 and the neighboring residents who have been breathing PCE in their homes for decades."

In September 2022 the SF Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to support a comprehensive clean-up using a technology called Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) that even DTSC says is ideally suited to clean up the PCE quickly.

More recently, Sunset Supervisor Joel Engardio, in a letter to the City’s Board of Appeals, called for a plan and a timeline “to remediate the subsurface PCE gas at this project.” But

Engardio has met resistance from the Mayor’s Office, TNDC, and elements of the news media. So there is no such plan. At the August 16, 2023 Board of Appeals hearing, MSNA will be asking the City to require such cleanup before construction starts on the new apartments.

MSNA has been advised by a group of experts: Lenny Siegel, former mayor of Mountain View, affordable housing advocate and a nationally known authority on how to build housing on contaminated sites; geologist Don Moore, who lives in the neighborhood and is an expert on the management and remediation of contaminated sites. Other consultants include engineers from the most respected environmental engineering firms in the state—who work with DTSC frequently in the course of their work. Medical experts include nationally respected UCSF physicians who specialize in toxicology and environmental medicine.

All these experts believe there is a serious health danger to the neighborhood and that DTSC should be overseeing a complete remediation (cleanup) of the site by using DTSC’s own recommended remedy: SVE. They all contend that DTSC is treating this site unlike similar sites throughout California.

The aim of the silent protest on August 12 was to bring attention to this pressing matter and rally support for a cleaner and healthier future for all residents. The neighborhood urges concerned citizens, local media, and elected officials to join them in this important endeavor.

Voice your support for full cleanup! WRITE OR CALL YOUR D4 SUPERVISOR: JOEL ENGARDIO

(415) 554-7460 OR EMAIL


If you have any questions, please email MSNA at


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