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Cruise wants to put a hydrogen tank 215 feet from a school. What could go wrong? | #schoolsaftey | #hacking | #aihp

You’re not going to believe this, but the businesses on San Francisco’s Industrial Street tend to be — wait for it — industrial. 

There’s lighting and tile design and auto body shops and windows and doors and, in a concession to modern times, ghost kitchens for food delivery apps. But, incongruously amid businesses like these  — since all the way back in 1980 — there’s also the Big City Montessori School. 

Owner and teacher Amanda Riccetti has been here since opening day — her parents founded this school, which serves some 75 students between ages 2.5 and 6 — and she’s seen the city transform from her corner on Industrial and Loomis. It hasn’t always been a march toward progress: The open space on Loomis abutting the school went from being a bereft vacant lot to a cute little soccer field to a taxi parking lot to a covid testing drive-thru. It is now back to being a bereft vacant lot. A recycling plant came in (which induced a major rat problem) as did the massive Lowe’s on Bayshore (which did not). Things change in an industrial neighborhood. And Riccetti is okay with that. 

“We’ve never been anti-growth,” she says. “We’ve never had a problem with business.” 

So Riccetti was aware that Cruise has leased the 0.67 acre scrap of land one lot down the road at 241 Loomis St. and is moving its autonomous vehicles in and out of the gated blacktop. She was also aware the company was hoping to install a 24/7/365 charging station for its electric cars; someone in her office looked that one up on the internet. 

She was not aware, however, that Cruise is hoping to generate the electricity to power its charging station by placing a 97,359 cubic foot hydrogen tank at 241 Loomis. Cruise noted this on a pre-application document it sent city departments in December, also indicating that the tank would be located “approximately 215 feet” from the Montessori school. 

Cruise is calling this proposal — which is still very much in the pre-application stage — “a temporary hydrogen refueling station.” But the word “temporary” is doing a bit of work. Within its submitted materials, the company notes that the temporary facility would be used for two to eight years. The electricity to recharge Cruise’s autonomous cars would be derived from a “hydrogen trailer (on wheels) to provide an interim power source” until PG&E gets its electric capacity for the area up to speed, and this hydrogen trailer — carrying about 500 pounds of flammable gas — would be replaced “every 1-2 days” by a new trailer being trucked in on city streets. 

Well, this Riccetti did not know. And nobody from the city reached out to inform her about it. 

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