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Politicians Throw Themselves Out of City Hall _ Temporarily

January 5, 1995

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ It sounds like an angry voter’s dream _ kicking every single politician and bureaucrat out of City Hall.

But the ``bums″ are throwing themselves out.

Rattled by the San Francisco Bay earthquake in 1989, the 80-year-old domed Beaux Arts building some call the most graceful city hall in the country needs three years of construction to shore it up against further seismic damage.

So more than 1,300 city employees, from Mayor Frank Jordan to the marriage license clerks, will be scattered about the city until the work is finished.

That’s 22 departments and 300,000 square feet of office space, with the tab for moving and construction put at $180 million.

``Having moved into my own house a couple of weeks ago, I know what an undertaking this is,″ the mayor said Thursday, holding up a 1936 overdue library book warning he found while moving.

San Francisco City Hall is well known around the world, thanks to the movies.

It has been a backdrop for the James Bond thriller ``View to a Kill,″ ``Jagged Edge,″ ``Invasion of the Body Snatchers,″ the ``Dirty Harry″ series, ``Class Action″ and the upcoming ``Murder in the First.″

Its wide marble halls and central staircase also have appeared _ unidentified _ in many other movies, including ``The Right Stuff,″ according to Robin Eickman, administrator of the city Film Commission.

The beauty and history of the building are one reason the city decided to fix it instead of tearing it down and starting over. It’s a rallying point for protests and rallies _ and the site of the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 by a disgruntled former city official.

``This is a magnificent building. If it were to be destroyed by an earthquake, I don’t think we would accept that,″ Jordan said. ``We owe it to our children and grandchildren to preserve it.″

The previous city hall collapsed in the 1906 earthquake. Graft and corruption had delayed its completion for two decades.

``They always say it took 20 years to build, and 20 seconds to fall down,″ said Chief Administrative Officer Rudy Nothenberg, who will retire in March after overseeing the exodus.

City residents approved a bond issue to pay for most of the reconstruction. The rest will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

But the move, which begins for some departments Jan. 13 and will take six weeks, means headaches for many employees and the public.

``I’m worried,″ fretted Flora Policarpio, a clerk at the small-claims window. ``Will the phone numbers be the same for people to call us?″

Ellen Gunselman in the court clerk’s office hears the telephone exchange, at least, will be different. She’s also unhappy at leaving for a more cramped office.

``We’re going to miss this building,″ Gunselman said, glancing at the high ceilings.

So may lawyers and clerks in the city attorney’s office. They’re moving two blocks south of City Hall. Their law library is moving one block west.

Not everyone will miss City Hall, though.

Eileen Hirst, chief of staff for the Sheriff’s Department, said the building’s age is a liability in the information era. ``It will be nice to go somewhere with electricity that works,″ she said.

The biggest losers may be brides and grooms. The grand marble staircase and its gilded railings serve as a romantic backdrop for many weddings each day.

``We’ll have a special space for weddings in the new office,″ said marriage license clerk Maggie Zeballos. ``But it won’t be the same.″

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