Bomb scare empties federation site

A harmless recycling bin chained to a pole outside San Francisco's Jewish Community Federation building created a bomb scare for three hours Tuesday.

After detonating the suspected bomb, the police bomb squad determined the bin was filled with glass bottles and aluminum cans — not explosives.

"It was appropriate stuff to be in a recycling bin," S.F. Police Inspector Allan Duncan said Wednesday.

The incident began at 5:15 p.m. when an unknown man in a suit chained the bin to a pole in front of the federation at 121 Steuart St.

The man would not move the bin or allow Robert Charles, a JCF security guard, to look inside. The man got angry and walked away.

Charles called police, who advised him to evacuate the 30 to 40 people in the building. Police later evacuated several buildings nearby.

There was no indication the closed, plastic bin actually held a bomb.

"It was just treated as a potentially suspicious object," said Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.

Kahn, whose organization is housed in the federation building, stayed until police left about 8 p.m. and acted as a liaison with police.

"I think we were cold, and anxious for it to end," Kahn said. "People took it exactly the right way, seriously but not alarmist."

Though police don't plan to follow up, JCF building manager Elle Hoffnagel said federation officials believe the bin may belong to a building next door and will speak with its tenants.

At least one radio and one TV station incorrectly reported that the incident occurred at the Jewish Community Center of S.F.