What you need to know about Manufactured Gas Plants & San Francisco

Before gas was natural gas, it was manufactured locally. Seriously! The Marina, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Potrero/Central Waterfront were all  neighborhoods with manufactured gas plants.

Until natural gas was an available energy source, it was manufactured at local gas plants now known by the lovely acronym of MGP (manufactured gas plant). At the time (roughly 1870 – 1930) manufactured gas was considered to be cutting edge technology. Coal and oil were the raw materials, and the gas that was created helped transform city life – for example, by powering gas street lamps. Unfortunately, gas wasn’t the only thing created at MGPs and some of the byproducts are now considered to be a health hazard (think VOCs and PAHs).

Historic location of Manufactured Gas Plants in the Marina area of San Francisco
Historic location of Manufactured Gas Plants in the Marina area of San Francisco

What does this have to do with you? Believe it or not, even though these plants stopped operating by the 1930’s, the currently responsible legal party – Pacific Gas & Electric – is still doing site investigations, monitoring, and remediation where appropriate.

The manufactured gas plants in the Marina neighborhood were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, and then buried over again during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. So residential homes, businesses, and parks currently rest on land that was once used to manufacture gas. PG&E is emphatic that “There is no indication that PG&E’s former MGP sites pose any health concerns to the public, based on our testing, experience, and extensive review of medical literature.”

PG&E and the State of California came to a ‘voluntary agreement’ in 2010 that requires PG&E to continue monitoring and sampling for residual materials that may be present at these sites. Of the five location in San Francisco, the Marina sites are by far the most residential, so it is something you should be aware of if you are considering buying or selling a home in the Marina district. As for the other sites? The fisherman wharf site is now home to a hotel, the Potrero site is occupied by a warehouse, and the central waterfront site is under remediation (the former Potrero Power Plant).

My Listing Went Viral… Psych!

Ken Block, an X-Games rally car driver, tears up the streets of San Francisco in a strange little car… and the video has gone viral.

So what does that have to do with my listing? If you watch the youtube video (embedded below), you’ll see Ken Block fly out of Russian Hill and land in Potrero Hill at about the 4:28 mark. (I love SF film edits that splice two non-adjacent neighborhoods together, but that’s another story). He hauls his strange little car (it’s like a Ford Fiesta with a crystal meth addiction, or something) on down Rhode Island Street, doing some crazy figure-eights at the intersection of Rhode Island and 22nd St. before launching himself down 22nd St towards the bottom of the twistiest street in San Francisco, which he flies up in the wrong direction.


What does all of this have to do with me? Not much, except that Britton and I listed a condo at the intersection of 22nd and Rhode Island earlier in the year, and our sellers took some footage from their windows. If you don’t have anything else to do, you can see the Zephyr signing hanging on the front of the home at about the 4:38 mark. Our listing was the brown house with the sloped roof that looks like a single-family home but is actually a condo. Below is some bonus footage that our sellers took and gracefully shared with us:


So there you have it, folks. Not only do you get bonus footage of a strange little car tweaking all over San Francisco, you also get a demonstration of my ability to take anything San Francisco and somehow turn it back to real estate and, well, me.

Seriously,  hope you enjoy the footage. I can’t believe the city was completely cooperative with the filming, but apparently they were. Probably because people usually drive like Ken Block in San Francisco all the time… but that’s another story too.


Here’s the edited video from the seller, thanks Kevin!