Muni cuts, subways, land values and gentrification.
Chinatown, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill and the Waterfront are Mediterranean-like villages. But their affordability, beauty, character and diversity are vulnerable to economic forces. In the Wall Street Journal: “Housing costs near rail stops increased after light rail service started.” (SEE BELOW)

As Muni cuts surface transit, developers push for costly subways. The Central Subway takes $595 million of state/ local matching funds from the Muni system—cutting service. With cost overruns, more service will be cut. (SEE BELOW)

“If they build the Subway, it will ensure major, major new development at the stops in Chinatown and North Beach; and in terms of scale, these neighborhoods will never be the same again.”—Allen B. Jacobs, Past SF Planning Director & Dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design

WALL STREET JOURNAL: “Rail Lines Bring Housing Clashes”\

Professors at Northeastern University in Boston examined 42 neighborhoods in 12 U.S. cities in 2010 and found that housing costs near rail stops increased after light rail service started in many markets. “A new transit station can set in motion a cycle of unintended consequences in which core transit users are priced out in favor of higher-income, car-owning residents.”

Others think the affordable-housing funds compound what they say is an inefficient form of transportation. “The way that you get affordable housing is by stopping the government policies that make it unaffordable in the first place,” said Wendell Cox, a demographer and urban-policy consultant in Illinois.

NEWS AT NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: “Public transit policies may lower ridership”

Extending public transportation to a metropolitan neighborhood for the first time can, in some cases, raise rents, bringing in a population of wealthier residents who would rather drive than take public transportation.

That’s the conclusion of a report by the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, which found that new public transit investments can sometimes lead to gentrification that prices out renters and low-income households—people considered core public-transportation users—working against the public goal of boosting transit ridership.

REPORT: “Maintaining Diversity in America’s Transit-Rich Neighborhoods”

BROOKLYN BUREAU: “How the M-Train is Gentrifying Bushwick”

Gentrification that has spilled over from industrial East Williamsburg to residential northeast Bushwick is spreading inexorably southward—thanks to a little help from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“It’s all based on the transit system,” said Andrew Clemens, director of retail leasing for Massey Knakal, a real estate brokerage firm. “The proximity to Union Square on the L train made Williamsburg attractive. Now proximity to midtown on the M train is driving the south Bushwick market.”

CURBED LOS ANGELES: “Black-Owned Businesses Already Being Pushed Out of Leimert Park Ahead of the Crenshaw Line” Link
But it looks like the gentrification train is already headed into the station in the predominantly-black neighborhood–a few weeks ago, Our Weekly reported that, recently, “A number of Black businesses in the Village have been notified that their leases won’t be renewed.” New property owners have been coming in, presumably to get in ahead of the subway, and they’re cleaning house already–several commercial properties have changed hands and tenants say they’re being forced out.

GRIDSKIPPER: “The Most Important Chinatown in the World”

“Once spread out over nine city blocks, Washington DC’s Chinatown now comprises a minuscule area that laugh-it-up hipsters refer to as ‘Chinablock’. Even though the community dates back to the 1850s, the most recent census only counted 700 Chinese residents in the neighborhood, making DC the smallest Chinatown in all America. Gentrification happens, right? In 2006, the city of Washington DC spent $200 million to make Chinatown safe and nice for tourists and Virginians. Subsequent side effects included Chinatown becoming much more expensive, really cheesy, and a lot less Chinese. Now it’s that place by the metro to grab lunch before the game at the Verizon Center or a way to break up a day of shopping. It’s also the place to buy a condo if you happen to be a millionaire who wants a room without a view. It’s all quite tragic really, but even more worrisome is the thought that DC Chinatown is the proverbial sparrow in the mineshaft. Will our want of safety and shopping erase the ethnic hoods we love? Let’s discuss!”

“The extension of the Subway tunnels to Washington Square to make a ‘removal pit’ will transform North Beach into something it mustn’t be — and permanently mar its traditional village feeling. With the extension of the Chinatown Subway into the very heart of historicNorth Beach, the special ambience of this fragile quarter will be greatly diminished.”Lawrence Ferlinghetti & City Lights Books, SF Poet Laureate Emeritus

Improving the entire Muni transit system is quicker and less costly—rather than a commuter-oriented subway and gentrification.

MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE: Implementation of Zurich’s Transit Priority Program – pdf   “Zurich is famous for the quality of its public transportation system and it has one of the highest levels of per capita transit ridership in the world. This is because its transit service is fast, frequent, reliable and inexpensive due in large part to its transit priority program.” [NOTE: 63% of modal work trips are by public transit].

“The transit priority program enabled all of Zurich’s surface transit lines to improve more quickly and for less money than constructing a new underground line. Consequently, the entire transit network could be improved rather than just building a single line. This was the choice that Zurich faced in a 1973 election that asked voters to spend 1.2 billion Swiss Francs (SFr) for construction of a new underground transit system. Voters rejected that measure and voted instead to provide 200 million SFr over 10 years to implement transit priority measures to make the existing surface transit system more effective.”

MUNI SERVICE CUTS Since 2007, Muni cut service, eliminated 6 bus lines, shortened 22 routes, deferred maintenance, increased missed runs/ switchbacks, increased fares/ fees/ fines/ meters…. In northeastern neighborhoods, the Central Subway’s Phase 1 eliminated the 15-Kearny Bus/ 20-Columbus buses and cut hours for the 41-Union Bus. Later, SFMTA shortened routes for the 10-Townsend/ 12-Folsom buses, decreasing waterfront connectivity. The Central Subway’s Phase 2 will cut 34,000-76,000 bus hours/ year from the 8X, 30 and 45 bus lines. Phase 2 also eliminates the T-Line’s Embarcadero Loop, decreasing trains to Market Street’s BART/ Metro Stations. More buses/ cable cars/ streetcars and new circulator routes would have increased Muni service years ago—quickly and inexpensively.
Redevelopment eradicated the Western Addition and Fillmore neighborhoods. Victorian neighborhoods and its middle-class were demolished Before and after 1906,Chinatown fought off total relocation by developers. Nihonmachi failed in fighting redevelopment and displacement. The Lower Fillmore Jazz District and Afro-American institutions were splintered.

Save Muni August 19 agenda

2011.0508E Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP) Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR)
Given the citywide nature of the TEP project, the Planning Department is extending the public comment period to 5:00 pm on Tuesday, September 17, 2013.
Written comments on the DEIR should be submitted to the Planning Department at the following address:
By Mail:  Sarah B. Jones, Environmental Review Officer, Planning Department, 1650 Mission Street, Suite 400, SF, CA, 94103
By Email: or
The DEIR document is available on-line at .
FOR INFO:  Heidi Kline, LEED AP, Environmental Planner, Planning Department, 1650 Mission Street, 4th Floor, SF, CA 94103

Simplicity is a good strategy for public transit.  Even developing countries can move millions of daily riders with limited resources.  Forty years ago in Curitiba (Brazil), Mayor Jaime Lerner (an architect and urban planner) integrated public transportation into a comprehensive urban plan.  Curitiba’s transit-priority streets and bus rapid transit were consistently implemented in stages, avoiding large-scale and expensive projects in favor of modest initiatives.  Meanwhile, Muni has fewer riders now than it did a decade ago—the only major transit agency to lose customers among the nation’s top six transit districts.  Rather than reinventing the wheel, let’s adopt best transit practices.
1.    Bad City priorities are wasting millions of dollars that are needed to improve Muni service.
2.    Implement transit-priority streets throughout the city in every neighborhood.
3.    We can reverse Muni’s poor on-time performance, shorter hours, breakdowns, accidents, missed runs, switchbacks and declining ridership.  Let’s move scarce Muni funding into smarter transit investments.
4.    By extracting the tunnel boring machines in Chinatown, we can save $9 to $13 million.
5.    By not digging the empty tunnels from Chinatown to North Beach, we can save $80 million.
6.    Also, as revealed in recent reports and independent analysis, we need to prevent Central Subway cost overruns of $400 million or more—because Muni needs the money more.
7.    Better yet, like the Embarcadero Freeway, stop the Central Subway and save hundreds of millions of dollars.

Regards, Howard Wong, AIA

Hi Everyone, let’s keep together as a neighborhood!

The Land-Use Committee is your only opportunity to make public comments.
Voice your concerns and tell your stories.  Members of our community will still suffer from the Pagoda Theater’s unnecessary work.  Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) can be buried underground or extracted in Chinatown.  The Pagoda Theater requires a Supplemental EIR—due to unstable soil conditions, adjacent historic buildings and spot-zoning to benefit one property.  Let’s support ALL our North Beach merchants and neighbors!

City Hall Legislative Chambers, Room 250
AGENDA:  Item 2 Special Order at 1:30 pm—Pagoda Theater

Email the Mayor and Board of Supervisors:
Mayor and Supervisors: (Updated January 13, 2013)

AGENDA:  Item 33 Pagoda Theater—3:30 PM (?)
Note: No further public comments are allowed.

Bury TBMs or Extract TBMs in Chinatown – The Pagoda Theater’s TBMs extraction is totally unnecessary.  It is fiscally irresponsible to spend up to $80 million for the northern tunnel extension to North Beach—to get only $4.4 million in TBM salvage value.  Instead, per the original plans in 2005-08, the TBMs can be extracted or buried in Chinatown, saving up to $80 million and eliminating all disruptions.

Pagoda Theater Extraction Cuts Muni Bus Service – TBMs extraction at the Pagoda will cost an unnecessary $9.15 million in Muni operating funds.

STREETSBLOG:  “Central Subway Pagoda Deal Will Take $9 Million From Muni Operating Funds”

Telegraph Hill Dwellers asks for TBMs extraction in Chinatown. –  If built, the Central Subway Project will reduce surface transit throughout the northeast quadrant.  In the Federal Transit Administration’s summary, the Central Subway will take $15.21 million in operating funds from Muni—annually.  Per the Final SEIS/SEIR, the subway will cause 76,400 hours of reduced Annual Diesel/ Trolley Bus Hours.  In the FY 2012 New Starts Criteria Report, the subway will cause 34,426 hours of reduced Annual Trolley Bus Hours.


At the February 5, 2013 MTA Board meeting, submitted a letter from their Attorney, raising substantive concerns and legal objections to TBM extraction at the Pagoda Theater.  On the grounds set forth in the letter, objects to the realignment of the Central Subway, alteration of the TBM extraction terminus, new Conditional Use Applications and Zoning Map Amendments.  The new work requires a Subsequent or Supplement EIR, including evaluation of new geological impacts/ dewatering/ ground subsidence, nearby historic resources and the Subway’s extension to North Beach.

CHRONICLE:  “Central Subway foes fight Pagoda plan”

At a January 22, 2013 community meeting in North Beach, MTA Director Ed Reiskin assured concerned neighbors that the North Beach tunnel will be used only for TBM retrieval—not for equipment storage and delivery of materials to Chinatown.  Since the machines can be retrieved or buried at a significant cost savings in Chinatown, the sole rationale to tunnel to North Beach is to complete a majority of a northerly subway extension—without neighborhood engagement or environmental reviews.

It is illogical to spend $54 million to $70 million for two 2,000 foot tunnels from Chinatown to North Beach—in order to save $4.5 million in TBM salvage value.  Instead, by stopping construction at Chinatown, cost savings from the Central Subway’s local funding can implement the 2003 Stockton Street Enhancement Project and parts of the 2003 Prop K Transit Priority Streets Program—improving Muni throughout northern/ western San Francisco and creating more jobs quicker.

Learning from best construction practices around the world, TBMs are frequently entombed and routinely placed in out-of-the-way locations if future line extensions are contemplated.  Other subway projects have negated disruptions to streets, traffic, transit, businesses and neighborhoods…