SAN FRANCISCO—A citizen’s group filed a lawsuit on Friday, January 6, against the City of San Francisco alleging that the diesel generators at Candlestick Point State Recreational Area violate the Clean Air Act. 

The suit asks the U.S. District Court to demand that the city stop violating the act and requests civil penalties of up to $109,000 per day for each violation. The lawsuit has been assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.

The center is located near the bay in a remote parking lot that was intended to be used as a temporary shelter for unhoused individuals living in their vehicles. It was originally anticipated that up to 150 vehicles would use the center, each with a connection to electricity. The complaint states that the city felt the site would be ideal because it has existing infrastructure, including water, sewer and electrical poles for lights. An October 2022 count found there were 47 vehicles parked at the center.

The plaintiffs claim that there is no permanent electrical service to the site and instead the city provides electricity through a cluster of 16 diesel generators that it installed and put into service without obtaining a permit under the federal Clean Air Act. Seven months after the generators were installed the city applied for permits from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to operate three large fossil fuel generators to supply power for daily needs at the center. However, the city allegedly did not disclose in its permit application that it was already serving the site with the 16 unpermitted generators, according to the suit. Currently, no permit for the new generators has been issued.

The plaintiffs argue that the city has created a dangerous and unsafe situation at the site and in the surrounding residential areas. According to the complaint, “pollution emitted from diesel generators is the number one source of cancer risks among toxic air contaminants in California.”

The lawsuit also recounts a history of land use decisions by the city that have allegedly burdened the Bayview area with pollutants and harmful materials, including a wastewater treatment plant, and an industrial center with multiple tenants who allegedly process concrete material, emitting harmful particulate into the atmosphere.

San Francisco has not responded to the complaint as of yet.