Proposed Condos At Pagoda Theater Site Could Stymie Central Subway Extension Plan

BY CALEB PERSHAN : sfist – excerpt

With the goal of expanding the Central Subway project from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf, an oft-cited item on the SFMTA’s future project “wish list,” Supervisor Julie Christensen is pushing the City of San Francisco to purchase land at the intersection of Columbus and Powell in her district. The former home of the now-razed Pagoda Theater, the site was used as an exit point for the Subway project’s tunnel boring machines, but as Hoodline first reported, plans are in motion to break ground on the site for luxury condos as soon as November. Now things are heating up, the Examiner reports, with Christensen redoubling her efforts to claim the property for the City, a move she cites as important to the subway’s expansion. She’s now asked city government’s Real Estate Division to re-assess the property.

“We are lighting bonfires under their fannies,” Christensen said. “I’ve finally gotten a lot of people to share my sense of urgency.” Christensen is joined by vocal “let’s always be building a Subway” advocate Supervisor Scott Wiener, who writes to Facebook “I’m proud to join my colleague Supervisor Julie Christensen to co-sponsor her initiation of the process to purchase a critical site in North Beach to preserve it for a future North Beach subway station for the extension of the Central Subway…We can’t afford to lose this site to condo development.”… (more)

Supervisor takes steps to purchase key site for Central Subway expansion

Pagoda Palace: Restaurant Owner Discovers Brick Fragments on Roof, Gets Angry

By Joe Eskenazi : sfweekly – excerpt

Yesterday we noted that the Piazza Pelligrini restaurant received a pair of unwelcome guests: Bricks, which fell from the Pagoda Palace demolition site next door.

Restaurateur Dario Hadjian was less than thrilled with the notion of construction debris coming to a rest next to his outdoor cafe tables (the bricks purportedly tumbled within the construction zone, then rolled beneath a fence). So, this morning, when he found more bricks, he was even less than less-than-thrilled.

And he called the cops… (more)

ASBESTOS AND LEAD:  SAFETY PRECAUTIONS IGNORED Despite many requests, SFMTA has not identified hazardous materials to neighbors nor divulged abatement procedures.  If any haz-mat removal has occurred, such work was done without any containment or protective barriers—throwing particulates into the air.  Nearby residences and restaurants with outdoor dining have been ignored.

The “Phase I Environmental Site Assessment” (by “Ceres Associates”, May 30, 2001) and “Asbestos and Lead Survey” (by “EnviroNova”, June 19, 2009) identify lead (paint, tiles, soldered plumbing connections….), asbestos (roofing, mastic, flashing, plaster, putty, tiles….) and mercury (thermostats).

The Pagoda site has saturated sandy soils, a high water table and underground streams.  Structural loads onto cavity-prone soils have high potential for soil subsidence and damage to adjacent buildings.  Independent Geotechnical Evaluations: “Karp Report 1, 2 and 3”.  

The demolition is being rushed for political reasons.  Internal SFMTA documents show that demolition is not necessary:  In SFMTA’s Risk Management Report No. 46, Risk Item 208 notes:  “March 2013:  2. If resolution of costs associated with the Pagoda option is not achieved, the TBMs will be buried to maintain budget requirements.”

TBMs (Tunnel Boring Machines) can be buried under Stockton Street or extracted in Chinatown, eliminating the empty 2,000 foot tunnels from Chinatown to Washington Square and the Pagoda Project.  Cost savings of up to $80 million can be used to quickly improve Muni throughout northern and western San Francisco.

RUSHED DEMOLTION  =  BAD CONSEQUENCES The Pagoda Theater’s rushed demolition is unwise and illegal.  At minimum, surrounding business/ property owners should be allowed to review engineering and demolition procedures.  Thus far, neighboring businesses and property owners have been left in the dark.

Some Say Signs of Trouble Apparent Days Before Building Collapse

UPDATE: CENTRAL SUBWAY DEFICITS – and 2nd Mock Funeral for Pagoda Theater

JOIN the Mock Funeral for Pagoda Theater, Friday, June 14, 5 pm at Columbus/ Filbert.  Mock Funeral for Pagoda Palace Theater



Known since October 2012, schedule and cost problems have been concealed—to evade scrutiny of budget hearings, to take $9 million+ from Muni operating funds for the Pagoda Theater site, to waste $70 million for an empty northern tunnel and to force taxpayers into future debt load.

EXAMINER:  “Central Subway report details lack of time, money contingencies”

A recent report by a federally placed overseer monitoring the $1.6 billion Central Subway project laments that the controversial line is at risk of falling significantly below Federal Transportation Administration minimums for both time and money contingencies.
The minimum cost contingency the FTA will allow for the project is $160 million. The Central Subway, however, appears poised to drop nearly $100 million below that figure. The lowest of three bids received for “station and systems/trackwork” came in $90 million to $120 million more than anticipated. “If awarded, project cost contingency will fall to approximately $65 million, which is significantly below the required level,” notes the report.

PMOC MINI-MONTHLY REPORT:  The independent Project Management Oversight Consultant’s report reveals schedule and cost problems—hidden since October 2012.

The CSP [Central Subway Project] is planning to submit justification to decrease the minimum schedule contingency based on risk.  The PMOC has been requesting justification for the reduction in schedule contingency and/or a Recovery schedule for the CSP since October 2012.  The PMOC, FTA, Region IX and the FTA Headquarters are concerned that it has taken the CSP so long to address the serious deficiency.”

CHRONICLE:  “Central Subway pushing the limit?”

Critics with Save Muni, a group that opposes the subway, contend the report supports their argument that the subway will have huge cost overruns that will have to be paid from Muni operating funds, delivering service cuts.

EXAMINER:  “SFMTA approves Central Subway contract with Tutor Perini despite concerns”
EXAMINER:  “With little wiggle room, Muni trusting controversial contractor for Central Subway work”
WALL STREET JOURNAL:  “Subway Project Drills Down on Costs”

Cost remains one of the biggest issues. The $1.6 billion price tag is far above a $647 million estimate from 2001. Last month, the low bid to build the stations and tracks came in $90 million to $120 million higher than the MTA’s estimate. At the same time, concerns emerged that a complicated plan to pull tunnel-boring machines out of the ground in North Beach could cost more than anticipated.
It isn’t unusual for large public works projects to go over budget. An oft-cited 2003 study by Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg found that on average, rail projects went over budget by 45%, with bridge and tunnels over by 34%. And a 2009 Federal Transit Administration risk assessment calculated that the Central Subway had a 30% chance of coming in within the $1.6 billion budget.

SFWEEKLY:  “Muni Presents Hideous Numbers at Transit Hearing”

It warrants mentioning that the nascent Central Subway is currently pegged to eat $15.2 million [annually] from the agency’s Operation and Maintenance budget — and any cost overruns for the $1.6 billion endeavor will be bled from local funds that could otherwise make vehicles go or fix them up.

CHRONICLE:  Editorial, “SF’s good times budget”

One prime example is Muni, whose failing performance was documented in a city hearing just days before the mayor’s budget was released. Its on-time performance is 58.7 percent, far below the voter-endorsed goal of 85 percent. In a city where driving, parking and buying gas should push people on the bus, the opposite is happening. 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.

Below: The updated budget analysis reveals even larger cost overruns.  Instead of cutting Central Subway costs, SFMTA’s misguided reaction has been more Muni service cuts, missed runs, switchbacks, “holiday” schedules, increased fares/ fees/ fines/ meters and a 2014 Bond Measure that diverts funds to the Central Subway.  Instead, a first step is to save $80 million by deleting the empty tunnels from Chinatown to North Beach and the wasteful Pagoda Theater site.  Budget Update,  June 6, 2013
Without the sunshine of independent audits, huge cost overruns for the Central Subway Project are being concealed—to force city officials and taxpayers into future debt load.
According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), all project contracts have been awarded or bid.  Based on available data, contingency funds are now at insufficient levels or gone altogether—even before major construction begins for tunneling and deep excavations: