And the Most Anticipated Projects of 2024
By Robert Fulton | contributing writer
The long year 2023 is finally wrapping up and heading into the history books.
In keeping with this newspaper’s December tradition, Organized Labor spoke with several key figures from Bay Area building trades locals affiliated with the SF Building and Construction Trades Council. We wanted to get an extemporaneous take from these business managers and field reps on what they thought were the most valuable and relevant jobs their members worked on during the past year.
In general, consensus was that 2023 was a slow year for work. Fortunately, our interviewees also rallied around a sense of hope that with falling interest rates and slowing inflation, 2024 would prove to be a far stronger year for construction. We followed that line of thought and asked what projects local leaders are most looking forward to next year. We have included those answers here as well.
The overall takeaways? Like last year, the ongoing Mission Rock megaproject provided plentiful work-hours across the trades in ‘23 and will continue to do so in ‘24. The Biosolids Digester Facilities Project from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) was also a fan favorite, while Treasure Island’s redevelopment is gaining considerable traction. Enthusiasm abounds for future work on the big SF Gateway commercial project under the recently-signed project labor agreement with developer Prologis, as well as the new hospital at UCSF Parnassus.
Without further adieu, let’s take a look at what made 2023 and what just might make 2024 for the City’s building trades.
SFPUC’s Biosolids Digester Facilities Project in August - Photo credit: George Verlaine
Local 6 Business Manager John Doherty was one of many to call out the SFPUC’s Biosolids Digester Facilities Project at the City’s Southeast Treatment Plant as a major highlight of 2023. The massive wastewater pollution treatment system’s overhaul brought multiple electrical contractors on-site for some unique work throughout the year.
“They pulled a lot of people,” Doherty said. “It’s not our typical workload. It’s very industrial.”
Local 6 members also worked on the new Ikea on Market Street, which opened in August.
Looking ahead to 2024, Doherty is optimistic about San Francisco’s first new school in decades, Mission Bay Elementary, as well as the Potrero Power Station Redevelopment, Mission Rock, the new UCSF Parnassus Hospital, and the Stonestown Development Project.
“I do think it’ll be improved,” Doherty said of next year’s work picture. “I think we see green shoots popping up — but obviously, nothing ever comes fast enough.”
A Local 8 member on BART escalator repair duty (file photo composite, 2021)
As they say in the elevator construction business, the trade certainly has its ups and downs.
“It’s been kind of a slow year,” admitted Local 8 Business Manager Matt Russo.
Russo appreciated the modernization work at the Russ Building and 50 California, as both projects provided some much-needed hours for members, as did ongoing work on the BART escalators this year. Because of its complexity, he said, modernization work actually provides more hours than new construction in the elevator trade.
Russo is looking forward to a modernization project at the Transamerica Pyramid that will provide some work for members in 2024.
SF Gateway project rendering - Image courtesy Jackson Liles Architecture
Local 40 Business Manager Peter Lang lamented a tough 2023, with several projects falling through for his local over the course of the year. Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, though, he is enthusiastic about the SF Gateway project in the Bayview, home to dozens of production, distribution, and repair businesses.
The two giant new buildings called for under the project plans will mean a lot of roofing and waterproofing work coming up.
Lang said he was pleased with the November 28 project labor agreement that the SF Building Trades Council negotiated and signed with SF Gateway’s developer, Prologis, ensuring construction is 100% union.
“You’ll get the right guys putting your building together,” Lang said of the overall benefit of the PLA.
Foreman Horacio Cruz and apprentice Andy Duran of Local 483 at an affordable housing jobsite on Treasure Island in April - Photo courtesy Dan Torres
Local 483 Business Agent Dan Torres is one of many Bay Area labor leaders who pointed to the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project as a significant source of work for his members in 2023. He also cited Mission Rock and a project at 7th and Townsend from Suffolk Construction as future sources for hours.
Still, things aren’t as rosy as they could be for Torres’ members.
“We haven’t bounced back since Covid,” he said.
Torres expressed his hope that lower interest rates in 2024 will spur more jobs and put people back to work.
Local 718 members at Isle House on Treasure Island in November - Photo credit: Jana Ašenbrennerová
Local 718 Business Representative Nick King was a little more upbeat than some at the other locals when considering the work picture in 2023 and what’s to come in 2024. King was one of the few building trades leaders who mentioned the jobsites of Treasure Island as a significant source of hours for his members.
“We have all kinds of glass companies out there,” he said.
King added Mission Rock to his list of hits, too. Together with Treasure Island, these two redevelopment megaprojects have kept the glaziers gainfully employed in the City this year.
Looking ahead, King cited the UCSF Parnassus Hospital, SF Gateway, and 555 Bryant in SoMa as additional sources of work moving forward.
A Local 510 member installing signage at the Moscone Center (undated file photo)
Unlike most council affiliates, Sign and Display Local 510 doesn’t dispatch its members to new construction jobsites. Instead, they set up big conventions at Moscone Center. The work involves a unique set of opportunities and challenges.
“The largest and perhaps most satisfying project this year was Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual multi-venue fête that closes off Howard Street for a week,” said Local 510 Business Representative Morgan Worth. “It’s always a huge shot in the arm for our members and the local, as well as the community at large.” Worth also cited the APEC conference as a significant provider of jobs in 2023.
“When our members do something like APEC, it’s always a good reminder that what we do is not insignificant,” Worth said. “Our skilled members take pride in their work, and it’s always nice when the work that they do is on display beyond our local horizons.”
Next year, 510ers will once again look forward to Dreamforce, as well as the SF Auto Show.
Local 300 member Osmar Gambino Rivera at the Potrero Power Plant jobsite in May
As is the case with the other trades, the SF Gateway project in the Bayview is set to provide a steady enough source of work for the cement masons in the future. The Biosolids Digester Facilities Project offered solid work-hours for Local 300 members in 2023, and so did the Potrero Power Station Redevelopment.
Further north, Local 300 — whose jurisdiction stretches all the way up to the Oregon border — has seen its members busy with heavy highway work, said Business Agent Chris Knerr.
The Rodeo San Francisco Refinery in 2014 - Photo credit: Dreamyshade via Wikimedia Commons
Rather than struggling to name a project in the City, where work has been slow, Local 16 Business Agent Anthony Viscuso spoke of a significant project in the pipeline that’ll impact the entire region and state as well as his membership.
The Marathon refinery in Martinez (now known as the Marathon Martinez Renewable Fuels Facility) and Phillips 66’s refinery in Rodeo (officially called the Rodeo San Francisco Refinery) are making improvements to better prepare for renewable fuel sources in their facilities. Those improvements have and will continue to put insulators on the job.
“[The refineries] put a ton of our members to work,” Viscuso said, applauding their efforts. “They’re participating in the just transition using high-road labor.”
The Ferry Building, pre-revitalization, in 2010 - Photo credit: Sean Davis via Flickr
Local 3 Field Representative Colin Johnson had a nostalgic take on his local’s top project pick for 2023: the Ferry Building and clock tower restoration along the Embarcadero in the City.
Johnson is proud of the careful work Local 3’s members performed on the storied landmark, which he described as a symbol of San Francisco and an icon that’s never going away.
Looking ahead at the year to come, Johnson cited the pending modernization of the Transamerica Pyramid as a project that ought to provide some solid work-hours for Local 3’s members in 2024.
Local 261 members fit rebar at the Mission Rock jobsite in 2022 - Photo credit: Tue Nam Ton
Business Manager Ramon Hernandez of Laborers 261 was happy to report that his members fanned out to multiple big jobsites in 2023, including Treasure Island and the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project, for steady work.
But he was clear that this year, one project stood above the rest, from the Local 261 perspective: Mission Rock. It just hit all the sweet spots.
“Mission Rock has to be one of the best projects of 2023,” Hernandez said. “[It] includes commercial spaces, outdoor spaces, and housing. All of our trades and contractors are on display delivering value to our partners and our city.”
SFPUC’s Biosolids Digester Facilities Project in August - Photo credit: George Verlaine
Naturally, the Biosolids Digester Facilities Project gets a big nod from the plumbers, being that they are the experts in all things related to the efficient and orderly flow of liquids and the attendant infrastructure that keeps it all moving.
When asked about the finer points of the project, Local 38 Business Agent John Corso enthused about the public-works character of the job.
“It’s great to have journeyman and apprentice hands out there working on important public infrastructure in San Francisco,” he said.
Plumbers and pipefitters, the City salutes you.