On the Jobsite

Article thumbnail image A large dirt pit consumes the entire block of Van Ness and Geary, several stories deep, with what looks like landscaped rectangles at one end and mounds of dirt at the other. It’s the job of laborers to keep the site orderly, directing traffic, moving materials, digging holes, manicuring the dirt, cleaning the rebar and preparing the holes for the concrete pours.

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The Lumina towers rising up on Folsom and Main streets across from the Transbay Terminal will consist of 655 luxury condos in four towers ranging from eight to 42 stories high.

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Calibrating and designing a sprinkler system involves lots of calculations and decisions by teams of people working together, from the planning stage to the final tenant improvement stage.

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Insulators wrap insulation around heating, cooling and ventilation pipes. But imagine wrapping insulation around a pump the size of a small car, or around a 100-foot wide and 85-foot high water tank? It’s hard even to wrap one’s mind around that. But that was the job of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 16 members working on the Stanford Energy Systems Innovations Project (SESI).

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On Third Street, across from the Mission Rock Muni stop, the historic 1920s Fire Station Number 30 is going through a major renovation. But renovation does not fully describe what is taking place. The old two-story red brick firehouse will be surrounded by a six-story, 260,000 square-foot, glass and steel structure that will be the new San Francisco Public Safety building. The building will include a fire station, the headquarters for the San Francisco Police Department Southern Division, and the command center for the city during natural disasters. The project has a budget of $164 million. Pankow is the general contractor.

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With the tag line of “High Performance/High Value,” District Council 16 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades is an alliance of the finishing trades unions, including glaziers, floor coverers, tapers and painters. Their logo is a lion, and they are a high-powered organization, united by the goal of finishing buildings with style. They represent workers in Northern California and Nevada.

The trade show and convention industry is one of the fastest growing industries in San Francisco, and trade show installation is one of the newest trades. Sign, Display and Allied Crafts Union Local 510 started in 1900 organizing outdoor commercial sign painters and later billboard painters. The modern display industry in San Francisco began in the late ’60s, took off as a showcase for the booming computer tech industry in the 1990s, and then became the technology extravaganza it is today. 

Drive down Third Street past Mission Bay, past Dogpatch, then out Cargo Way past the gravel yards, and you’ll come to what feels like the end of the world. In the cold, grey fog, where the land meets the bay, members of Pile Drivers, Divers, Carpenters, Bridge Wharf and Dock Builders Local Union 34 wrestle into place telephone-pole size timbers they are using to repair the docks of Pier 94 

The Mission Bay project includes 13 blocks of mainly residential apartments, including high-end executive, market-rate, and low-income units, and some commercial space. On the Job Site visited with members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 as they were working on seven buildings consisting of 1,297 apartments.


Foundry Square, at First and Howard, is a complex of office buildings with large, inviting granite patios. The patio at Foundry Building III is comprised of about 1,500 magnificent black granite pavers that can weigh several hundred pounds each and require 6 men to put in place.

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