SAN QUENTIN-The state prison here should be relocated to provide residential and commercial opportunities for Marin County, according to a 70-page report released last week by the State Department of General Services.

The prison dominates 275 acres of prime real estate, located on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, bordering San Rafael, Larkspur, Corte Madera and San Quentin Village. But at 150 years old, it is falling apart. Its collapsing walls, failing plumbing system, pest problem, and poor security system are among the problems state leaders see as a cause for a new facility.

Supervisors Steve Kinsey and Annette Rose are spearheading a $250,000 study authorized by Governor Gray Davis to study the relocation of San Quentin. Its first step is to establish another site for California’s “death row.” Folsom Prison is being suggested as a location, but further joint state-regional studies will be needed.

The report estimates that it would cost more than more than $800 million to build two replacement prisons, relocate prisoners and begin operations at the new facilities. It also studied possible alternatives for the sale of the property for development.

If a solely residential community was built with 500 units of housing, minimum retail space and maximum historic preservation, the state’s revenue could be more than $200 million.

Another option is a transit village, with 2,000 housing units and train, ferry and transit stops. This estimates profits of more than $565 million. Lastly, a 3,500 unit community, with affordable housing and commercial space, could net as much as $664 million.

Sources at the Marin County Board of Supervisors office tell that officials are not expecting it to be an easy transition. It may take over ten years to get past the planning stages, due to obstacles such as relocating 5,800 inmates, analyzing competing land proposals, transferring the land title, determining historic preservation, and implementing a transit system. The land would also have to be re-zoned for housing and retail use.

Still, many land developers, politicians and transit officials have expressed great interest in this piece of land, eager to remove the prison and build a new community setting.

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