Safe Surrender


Firehouse on Bluxome Alley, just off Fourth Street, in San Francisco, during my Friday night walk to the ferry.

Bluxome runs parallel to and between Brannan and Townsend, well south of Market. I had never heard of it until the night of the 1989 earthquake. The quake caused a wall to collapse into the street at the corner of Sixth and Bluxome, less than two blocks from this spot, killing five people. I never actually walked along Bluxome Alley until 2001, when I went to work in an office at Eighth and Townsend. Occasionally I’d ride the casual carpool to First and Fremont, or somewhere in the vicinity, and walk over to Eighth. By the time I first strolled down the alley, the building that had partially collapsed was gone and a condominium building had gone up in its place.

(And what’s a Safe Surrender Site? Under a California law enacted in ’01, “a parent or person with lawful custody can safely surrender a baby confidentially and without fear of prosecution within 72 hours of birth.” The law “requires the baby be taken to a public or private hospital, designated fire station or other safe surrender site. No questions will be asked.” People who give up babies this way have 14 days to change their minds. The state says 348 babies have been surrendered in California in this manner since the law went into effect. Also: 46 other states have similar laws.)

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