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Paving Itself Into a Corner: The City's Asphalt Plant Takes Its Road on the Road 

Wednesday, Dec 11 2013
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Are you looking to score a massive hunk of furnished San Francisco land for a rock-bottom price? Well, it's located at Jerrold and Quint — still interested? Also, it's a decommissioned asphalt plant. And, once you buy it, you're responsible for dismantling it, London Bridge-style, and hauling it off to parts unknown. And the man handling the auction describes the item in question as "obsolete in many respects" and "what we call 'labor intensive,'" a purchase that will "require a lot of money in just taking it apart."

Sounds a bit like a '65 Corvair. But, if you will it, it is no dream.

And your dream obsolete city-owned, secondhand asphalt plant is there for the taking, come Dec. 17, via a live auction. The plant, notes 1st Capitol Auction of Vallejo, will be sold "as is" — and, sadly, there is no warranty. Still, "silos don't go bad. Conveyor belts don't go bad," says Brian McKissack, the auction house's general manager. Other portions of the plant, he concedes, do go bad — or at least bad enough to potentially not engender kindly relations with state emissions watchdogs. But, that's okay. "There are plenty of experts who are looking at this," says McKissack. And there's no "minimum" on this auction, meaning you could, theoretically, obtain an asphalt plant for a song. But "we're sure to get fair market value."

That's not what the city was getting out of the plant when it was shuttered in 2009. The 60-year-old facility was producing asphalt at 90 tons per hour, and cranking out around 400 tons per day on average. But it had become a white elephant: A ton of asphalt from the aging plant ran $115 to produce as compared to the $85 to procure the material on the open market. The city now spends even less: $76.50 per ton to obtain asphalt from Brisbane or Redwood City.

In the future, the city may invest in newfangled, eco-friendly asphalt technologies, which would allow old material to be ground up and repurposed into the streets of tomorrow. That would satiate the city's green desires — and, naturally, cost a lot of green. When asked for a prospective price tag, city officials declined to even venture a guess.

That was the same outcome when they were queried how much the pending sale of the old plant might rake in. McKissack, however, was less shy: "I don't think it'll be millions of dollars," he says. "We've auctioned off entire plants before. I forget what kind it was. They are not that unique."

Apparently, these things just sell themselves. It seems they may have to.

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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