2019 San Francisco Civil Grand Jury

The Jury Is Speaking. Will People Listen?

Joel Engardio
4 min readJul 27, 2019


By Joel P. Engardio

Should the police department participate in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force?

Does $5.8 billion dollars of unfunded liability in City Hall’s retirement system threaten the financial well-being of San Francisco?

Why do Westside neighborhoods lack the high-pressure water system needed to fight fires after a major earthquake?

These are controversial questions that politicians like to avoid, but the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury does not shy away from them.

The reports from this year’s civil grand jury were recently released. The 18 jurors investigated why the San Francisco Police Department no longer participates with a federal terrorism task force. They also raised the issue of pension reform and fire safety — again.

Every county in California has a civil grand jury by state law. A group of volunteers are selected to investigate and report on county government operations, and elected officials must respond to the findings within 90 days.

Will we let the Westside burn?
It was 2003 when the civil grand jury first recommended that a high-pressure Auxiliary Water Supply System be extended “to serve all parts of the City.” Large swaths of the Western and Southeastern sections of San Francisco won’t have adequate water to fight multiple fires after an earthquake and will likely be left to burn.

The 2019 civil grand jury reported “City leaders have known about this deficiency for decades but have yet to develop concrete plans or a timeline to provide a robust emergency firefighting water supply for all neighborhoods.”

An earthquake safety bond planned for next year promises to address the issue over the next 35 years — a decade after experts predict a large quake to strike the Bay Area.

“City officials should make the expansion of emergency firefighting protections to all San Franciscans a matter of high priority,” the report concluded, “before it is too late.”

Pension reform redux
A civil grand jury report from 2017 found that the San Francisco Retirement System “threatens the financial future of The City” because the system is only 77.6 percent funded — and…



Joel Engardio

Forward-thinking + pragmatic Democrat, civil liberties advocate, award-winning journalist, Westside SF homeowner. My local views at www.engardio.com/issues