When I walked down the hill early this morning I was surprised to see San Francisco police and a dozen workers all in their reflective vests standing in a straight line on the edge of Washington Square Park. Heavy construction equipment lined Columbus Avenue. Their work day was about to begin.
Despite strong opposition from North Beach neighbors and merchants, the dreaded Central Subway tunnel work is underway. I thought that recently filed lawsuits would postpone the project but that didn’t happen.
Columbus Avenue from Stockton to Filbert will be ripped open to relocate utilities in advance of boring the Central Subway tunnel. If the North Beach work is anything like the Central Subway downtown around Union Square, this will not be fun. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be a nightmare during the 4-month project especially during the week.
And the worst is yet to come. The last station on the subway line will be on the corner of Clay and Stockton in Chinatown, 5 blocks south of North Beach. But the machine will continue beyond the station, boring under Stockton Street to Columbus and down Columbus to the Park.
There are no plans to build a North Beach station so why tear up North Beach and disrupt our enjoyment of Washington Square Park? City officials decided the Park was the best spot to bring the huge boring machine back up to the surface. Geniuses!
Get ready for years of dirty surface work and foundation rattling from deep beneath the ground. The Central Subway extension isn’t scheduled to open until 2019.
North Beach has enjoyed a renaissance over the last 2 years. Established businesses are flourishing. New restaurants, shops and galleries opened. Some days there are so many visitors that it’s hard to make your way up Columbus. Will it last?
My neighbors are not hopeful. Many think the Central Subway assault will be a slow death for many North Beach businesses. Oh no, not those dreaded “For Rent” signs in all those storefront windows again. The Village vitality we all enjoy may soon be but a short-lived memory.