A Quake-Proof City Hall

San Francisco got its city hall back Tuesday more than nine years after earthquake damage made it dangerously unstable. CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports.

On Tuesday, Mayor Willie Brown was finally able to move into the grandeur of the historic mayor's office.

"This is heaven man. This is incredible," said Mayor Brown.

It was another irrepressible mayor, known as Sunny Jim, who decided that San Francisco would rise from the ruins of the great 1906 earthquake with a city hall that would make even Easterners take notice.

City architect Tony Irons says that meant doing Washington, D.C. one better. "This dome is bigger than the U.S. Capitol because back in 1912 Mayor Sunny Jim Rolfe ordered his architect to make it larger than the U.S. Capitol," says Irons.


CBS
City Hall Dome.
It turns out the dome is so big that in the earthquake of 1989 it acted like a huge pendulum, accelerating the violent shaking of the whole building. The solution was to jack up city hall and put it on shock absorbers.

The technology is hidden but city hall doesn't touch the ground. As a result says Tony Irons the city hall is "The safest place in San Francisco right now."

Marble, woodwork, and plaster have been restored. On the dome $400,000 in gold leaf glitters in the sunshine. Some accused the mayor of creating an imperial palace, but at today's opening he declared it a place for the people.

There is only one thing that makes the mayor unhappy. "Have you seen the press room? It looks like a pig sty already! It's really just awful," says Brown.

An earthquake may not shake this glorious city hall but life inside it is tumultuous as ever.

Reported By John Blackstone
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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