SFPD to Investigate String of Explosions
A series of explosions throughout the city center have finally prompted San Francisco Police to investigate.
For years now, day and night, the booming detonations of so-called “small devices” have added to the downtown soundscape. Last Saturday at around 3:50 PM, Tenderloin residents reported yet another powerful blast. Car alarms wailed and shattered glass lay strewn about the pavement at Polk and Willow Streets, site of the latest explosion. SFPD quickly cordoned off the street, reporting no injuries. Window panes were missing even four stories up.
“I was also made aware that this has happened recently—more than once,” said Police Captain Derrick Jackson. “We are investigating and will be following up to hopefully identify who is responsible for these acts. I will keep the community updated with any information I receive.”
Police responded to multiple similar events last weekend. Prior to the blast at Polk and Willow, “a small device was set off in the area of 355 Fulton between Franklin and Gough.” People reported damage to the Boys and Girls Club, where a number of windows need to be replaced. Residents also complained of loud detonations in the early morning hours two days before.
The “Tenderloin Bomber?”
Pinyo Charoensuk, owner of Lapats Thai Noodle Bar, closed up shop late one evening last July. The following day, she returned to the scene of a devastating crime. An explosive had detonated, demolishing her storefront and rendering her restaurant inoperable.
“An explosion is too aggressive. Cracking a window is okay, maybe some small stuff, but this one is too big,” said Charoensuk.
Suspicions have arisen of a serial bomber whose arsenal is said to include anything from heavy-duty fireworks to pipe bombs. As a Tenderloin resident myself, I hear at least two explosions a night. After two years here, only the big ones rattle me. Throughout the struggling district, damage manifests in broken windows, frayed nerves, lost sleep, and insurance hassles. It remains unknown whether these explosions are the work of one or more perpetrators.
“It feels like a terrorist,” Charoensuk said. “An explosive is not acceptable.”
So far no one has claimed responsibility for this or any blast, anonymously or otherwise. The culprit of the attack on Lapats has yet to be caught.
A Bay Area Problem
San Francisco isn’t the only city plagued by seemingly untraceable explosions. In May 2021, The Mercury News reported a similar issue, this time Santa Cruz. “These recent booms are a little unusual in that they are really impactful. You can hear them literally all over town,” said Chief of Police Andy Mills. “I’ve had some go off near our house and literally shake the house. So that is unusual. And the consistency and the frequency is certainly substantial.”
Earlier this year, residents of Marin County’s San Geronimo Valley endured six explosions within a one-month span. Valley resident Cristina Peralta and her boyfriend felt the blasts. “It rattled the walls of our house,” she reported to ABC7. “I felt it in my body, my chest, it was so low it sounded like it was coming from underground,” Peralta said.
Without context, I would swear these quotes were referencing an earthquake. However, the USGS, which has peppered the region in seismometers, hasn’t recorded any significant seismic activity in or around these areas lately—at least, none that haven’t been covered already. Another prime suspect, PG&E’s volatile transformers, are far more often the cause of fires than late-nite sonic booms. Whatever the cause, it roams the surface.
San Francisco police urge anyone with information to call the Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. SFPD accepts anonymous reports.
Like this post? You’ll LOVE Stuart’s newest zine!
Snag this limited edition, hand-signed zine covering twenty years of Stu’s musings on San Francisco! Learn more right here.