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Constant Cranky Curmudgeon Archives — March, April 2013

You have been informed.

Also see: Letters, SaveSFMuni, C C Curmudgeon current


April 29: CCC says the BDB is a FFF

Supervisors and Mr. Mayor,

All of you should know by now that the Central Subway aka Billion Dollar Boondoggle is a fatally flawed fiasco being promoted for foolish reasons. But with the Pagoda Caper, things have descended to a new abyss of absurdity.

"Is "The Pagoda Option" a newly-discovered Robert Ludlum spy novel? Hardly. It's more like a harebrained scheme cooked up by Wile E. Coyote (of Road Runner fame) --- elaborate, expensive, and doomed not to work". "Beep Beep!"

SFMTA/Muni would have you believe that spending an extra one hundred million dollars to drill two 2,000 foot long tunnels from Chinatown into North Beach and dig a big hole at the Pagoda site is necessary to recover two tunnel machines worth less than $5 million. What?! If anyone can find any logic here, please let me know.

In fact, if the Pagoda caper is executed, it would reportedly be the first time that two tunnels anywhere in the world have been extended substantially beyond the end of a subway in order to recover used-up tunnel equipment. One might reasonably ask: "Why not avoid the extensions by disassembling the machines at the Chinatown end of the subway and removing them in pieces the way they came in?" Or, "Why not bury them in an out-of-the-way place under Chinatown?" Better yet, scrap the entire cockamamie concept ... entirely ... now. “When you find yourself in a hole quit digging.” – Will Rogers

Over the past 8 months the the SFMTA has repeatedly ducked such questions. Instead it has doggedly continued to promote its North Beach tunnels, despite its own worsening budgetary condition and despite the fact that it's going to cost at least ninety million dollars more to build the Central Subway stations than the SFMTA thought it would.

For this and other reasons the SFMTA now acknowledges that the $250 million contingency reserve its Program Manager was bragging about just last Fall is now mostly gone. The latest figures show the reserve as having plummeted to $53.3 million. That's just 3.4% of the cost of the project...with most of the construction work yet to come.

The danger of the project going over budget was predicted in a FTA/SFMTA risk management analysis released in March of 2010. The analysis concluded that the project had only a 30% chance of coming in on budget and only an 80% chance of holding the overrun to less than $2 billion, which would put the project $422 million in the red. To add to the problem, the Federal Transportation Administration has repeatedly warned San Francisco that overrun costs are strictly a local responsibility.

This should concern you ... San Francisco's elected officials.

You have been informed.

CC Curmudgeon

PS: I'm terrible at math ... so perhaps someone could add it all up and determine what the total cost is as of now. And remember that nine years ago it was sold at something over $600K. Wanna bet it'll be close to $3 Billion when finished? For a 1.7 mile underground light rail?!

April 28: Muni - Looney Tunes



What is the Pagoda Option, Wile E. Coyote version

April 27: Inspector General — Investigate wasted funds and illegal activity in Central Subway and Pagoda Option

To: Office of Inspector General, US Department of Transportation

CC: SF Board of Supervisors, Mayor Ed Lee

Subject: Central Subway Project (San Francisco) to use Phase 2 New Starts funds on an unapproved Phase 3

Dear Inspector General Scovell,

The Central Subway project is comprised of a Phase 1 - Third Street light rail surface line and a Phase 2 - subway-surface rerouting of the north end of Phase 1 from Fourth and King Streets along and under Fourth Street and under Stockton Street to a northerly terminal at Washington Street in Chinatown. There has been an initially covert and now openly and costly action to begin a Phase 3 extension from Chinatown to North Beach and eventually to Fisherman's Wharf.

You have already been asked to investigate how San Francisco's Central Subway project got to where it is. I am also requesting that you proceed with an investigation before both unapproved monies and SFMTA/Muni O&M funds are spent on this ill-advised extension. The project is fatally flawed and uniquely ill-conceived and has been incessantly promoted based upon exaggerated and distorted claims about its benefits. The local sponsor of the project is the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Long after the local and federal politicians had been sold on the excellence of the project based upon these false claims, the SFMTA, probably at the prodding of the FTA, began telling some of the truth about it (a substantial reduction in projected ridership and trip times and ballooning costs) in its federal New Starts reports to the FTA. See for example the 2011 New Starts report. However, to this day, SFMTA spokespeople continue to make inaccurate and misleading statements about the project.

I wish to call your attention to one particularly egregious such distortion. The SFMTA wants to extend the two Central Subway tunnels (each 22 feet in diameter) almost a half a mile beyond the approved end of the subway. The official reason for this, as set forth in the EIS/EIR and repeatedly endlessly in public meetings by SFMTA spokespeople, is to provide a way of recovering the used-up Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM's) after the completion of the drilling. People have been told that the only place this can be done is in North Beach - over 2,000 feet north of the Chinatown Station. There the SFMTA proposes to lift the TBM's out of the completed tunnels through a 50 by 50 foot "extraction shaft" especially constructed for the purpose. As any tunneling expert anywhere in the world can tell you, there are other, far cheaper ways of recovering, or disposing of TBM's, whose combined salvage value is less than $5 million.

The real reason for extending the tunnels beyond the Chinatown terminal station to North Beach has nothing to do with TBM removal. Instead it reflects the SFMTA's desire to get started with a further extension to Fisherman's Wharf, a proposal that was never mentioned in the EIS/EIR and for which there are no local, state or federal approvals, no CEQA or NEPA environmental clearances and no funding.

Apparently, Harvey Rose, San Francisco's Budget Analyst would very much like to investigate the Central Subway project, but can't do so without a directive from the San Francisco Supervisors who continue to ignore what a Billion Dollar Boondoggle the Central Subway is. An investigation is imperative before this project becomes another "Big Dig" or "Bridge to Nowhere."

Thank You,

Lee Goodin, Former Mayor of Amador City,
and Former Commissioner Amador County Transportation Commission (CA)
Now a resident of North Beach
600 Chestnut Street #408
San Francisco CA 94133
415 346-4335

April 27: KCBS report on 4/17 meeting, Ed Reiskin's quote unchallenged

To: North Beach folks

These are quotes from the CBS item reported by Chris Filippi:

  • On Wednesday night, over 100 people packed a community meeting in North Beach where some neighbors questioned why the machines can't be left underground.
  • SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said getting the machines out and tearing down a building many consider an eyesore seems like a win-win for the community.
  • "I’ll note also that there was no support in this room at the time to leave the machines buried here in North Beach," Reiskin said.

Has anyone challenged Reiskin's underlined quote?!

Can we agree that both Reiskin and Funghi are prevaricating sacks of doo-doo?


I’m back!

April 18: Meeting with MTA and North Beach neighborhood

From: Lee Goodin, April 18, 2013

To: Board of Supervisors, Mayor Ed Lee

Subject: Constant Cranky Curmudgeon says:


Although due to health problems, I was unable to attend the meeting last night re the extraction of TBM’s in North Beach/Pagoda, this is a compilation of assessments from several people who did attend for those of you who chose not to attend. This is not strictly a District 3 issue — attending last night was a gentleman from the Richmond district who feared the Pagoda option would pull more Muni bus funds away from the already poor service to his neighborhood. Using Muni O&M and reserve funds will have the impact of reduced service in all districts and neighborhoods.

Over 110 people attended, Supervisor Chiu moderated and John Funghi, Project Manager, was present. Many in the neighborhood are for the subway coming here — many are against. But to a person, people in that room at Tel-Hi got the idea that we don't need to destroy North Beach. We don't need to do the extraction here, whether or not we want a subway.

The other thing people understood is that North Beach was cheated out of a regular, legally required CEQA process. That the only reason we were there in that room at all last night is that one group held the entire subway project hostage back in 2007, and that this group forced the City to move into North Beach without ever doing a review process with the neighborhood. That group is the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), a non-profit that is notoriously pro-high density. An Addendum to the EIR does not fully evaluate the impacts of extraction in North Beach. Before moving ahead with this part of the project, a new EIR is required to fully determine the impacts.

Those who attended realized the "phantom tunnels" and Pagoda extraction option are not good for North Beach, and not good for SF because of the need to siphon off Muni bus funds to push it through. There were dozens of good questions and comments from the audience focused on these points.

Project Manager John Funghi agreed to explore the possibility with the owner of the Pagoda Palace to leave the machines permanently in the ground below the theater and to pay the owner for this. It's not hazardous material, and this way of entombing the cutting machines is used throughout the world. What this would mean to the neighborhood is No Extraction — just the tunnels 40' below the ground.

One of our neighborhood activists met with Joel Campos, owner of the Pagoda, two weeks ago and was asked about this possibility. Mr. Campos and his attorney said they would be for it as long as it doesn't affect what they might be able to build there.

The most rational and fiscally prudent thing to do would be to scuttle the Central Subway project … period. “When you have dug yourself into a hole –stop digging!” Two reasonable compromises would be: (i) entomb or extract the TBMs in Chinatown (ii) bring the TBMs to NB and entomb until funds are available for an NB station and extension to the wharf. But only after a thorough CEQA review. Please note that I am still anti-Central Subway aka Billion Dollar Boondoggle, but if it’'s going to happen anyway let'’s do it smartly and prudently.

Once again, Supervisors of Districts 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, if completed, this project is going to drain Muni O&M funds and will have the effect of reduced service in your neighborhoods. Think about it. You have been informed.

Lee Goodin
North Beach
415 346-4335

April 18: Correction to April 16 email


Just rec’d this response to my earlier email. It’s going to cost everybody. I have been informed. You have been informed.

From: Gerald Cauthen

Sent: Thursday, April 18, 2013 2:21 PM


Subject: Re: Constant Cranky Curmudgeon says:

I don't agree. The most rational and fiscally prudent thing to do would be to cut up the TBM's in Chinatown and move the pieces southward via the muck conveyance systems to the South Portal. This would save not only the cost of building the shaft, but also the cost of drilling an extra 4,200 feet of 22-foot diameter tunnel that may never be used for anything. A CS risk management analysis conducted jointly in early 2010 by the MTA and Federal Transportation Administration concluded that there was only a 30% chance of meeting the $1.58 billion project budget and only an 80% chance of even coming in under $2 billion. Supposing the final price is $2.0 billion. That would saddle the city alone with $422 million in new obligation. Cutting $80 million or so out of the cost of Phase 2 at this time would be by far the most rational and fiscally prudent thing to do. jc

In a message dated 4/18/2013 2:06:15 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Project Manager John Funghi agreed to explore the possibility with the owner of the Pagoda Palace to leave the machines permanently in the ground below the theater and to pay the owner for this. It's not hazardous material, and this way of entombing the cutting machines is used throughout the world. What this would mean to the neighborhood is No Extraction - just the tunnels 40' below the ground.

One of our neighborhood activists met with Joel Campos, owner of the Pagoda, two weeks ago and was asked about this possibility. Mr. Campos and his attorney said they would be for it as long as it doesn't affect what they might be able to build there.

The most rational and fiscally prudent thing to do would be to scuttle the Central Subway project … period. “When you have dug yourself into a hole – stop digging!” Two reasonable compromises would be: (i) to entomb or extract the TBMs in Chinatown (ii) to bring the TBMs to NB and entomb until funds are available for an NB station and extension to the wharf. But only after a thorough CEQA review. Please note that I am still anti-Central Subway aka Billion Dollar Boondoggle, but if it’s going to happen anyway let’s do it smartly and prudently.

April 16: Grout Expectations

From: Lee Goodin, April 16, 2013

To: Board of Supervisors, Mayor Ed Lee


(Copy of article, "Grout Expectations" by Joe Eskenazi)


Muni spokesman Paul Rose noted that more borings for soil samples — which, hopefully*, will go as deep or deeper than 42 feet — will be undertaken prior to construction, slated for next month. If need be, Rose adds, "the retrieval shaft will be amended as necessary to address those conditions."

At how much more cost??!!

(*) a common term for “Oh Shit!” in SFMTA/Muni jargon.

"Because the last thing anyone wants is non-consensual fracking."

You have been informed.

Love and I told you so,

Constant Cranky Curmudgeon

PS: Politicos, how many orders of rotten, stinking, San Francisco fried albatross would you like hanging around your neck for eternity? Oops, I mean Billion Dollar Boondoggle.

PPS: Chuck, America’s Cup = disaster. Central Subway = disaster. I told you so, too.

April 16: Letter to Supervisor Chiu

To the politicians who pretend to represent the taxpayers of the city aka Board of Supervisors and Mr.Mayor,

The meeting with MTA regarding the Pagoda option is only 24 hours away: Wednesday, April 17 6:30 p.m. at Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, 660 Lombard St at Mason.

According to MTA's invitation, "at the upcoming meeting, we will update the community on the construction details and respond to questions about the plan." Be prepared to ask questions that concern you, your family, and your neighborhood. See our web site for more project details:

Be sure to come and bring your friends and neighbors. It's supposed to be a big turnout, over 100. Arrive early to be sure you get a seat.

There was an amusing article in the SF Chronicle this morning that should further boost attendance CW Nevius, SF Chronicle, April 16. Tuesday afternoon I appeared before the SFMTA (Muni) Board to give a 2-minute capsule of the Pagoda option and an advert for the Wednesday meeting --- see 2:47:50 at video of SFMTA Board meeting 4/16/13

We received a well-thought-out letter from Nadya Williams, a longtime North Beach resident, and have included it below. She comes from a long line of stalwart San Francisco supporters, and in her letter effectively hits all of the key points.

Letter to David Chiu from North Beach resident Nadya Williams:

April 14, 2013 Dear Supervisor Chiu,

I am a 21-year resident of North Beach, and live exactly two blocks from the Powell Street and Columbus Avenue site of the old Pagoda Theatre. I am TOTALLY OPPOSED to the truly ridiculous idea of digging a 50’ by 50’ by 40’ deep hole at the Pagoda site to use to extract the TBMs –--- Tunnel Boring Machines for the Central Subway project.

Any common-sense person can see the impossibility of such an idea: the extreme size limitations of the area, the soil conditions and underground stream at the Pagoda site, the destabilization of the surrounding buildings (which include three restaurants – two with outdoor seating), the intolerable impact of noise, dust, machinery and traffic on: the neighborhood, Washington Square Park, Saints Peter and Paul school, the many tourist and MUNI busses that ply the intersection constantly, among many other disruptions and problems.

I recently attended a community meeting on March 26th at the Telegraph Hill Center. No elected officials or representatives of the project or SFMTA were in attendance, although they were invited. I joined the committee that evening. We heard an in-depth report by a well-known senior engineer, Mr. Lawrence Karp P.E., geotechnical consultant – who is an advisor on the new east span of the Bay Bridge and who took on a pro bono study of the Pagoda site. His report is devastating, and just the tip of the iceberg as to the completely unacceptable disruption and destruction to the neighborhood of the present “plan.”

The fact that this TBM extraction was originally planned for mid-Columbus Avenue is insane! What were these “planners” thinking?!!

Solutions? There are many:

bury and leave the TBMs underground at or near the Pagoda
bury them at the Chinatown Station @ Stockton & Washington
extract them from the Chinatown Station
extract them from the Harrison Street portal
... among many other solutions, I am sure.

I am, quite frankly, stunned at the incredibly poor planning that went into this project. It is clear that the ‘end phase’ (stop at N. Beach, go to Fisherman’s Wharf – later) of this subway was not thought out at all. My father, a graduate of Mission High and UC Berkeley, an architect, and a lover of The City, must be spinning in his grave!

I will attend the Wednesday, April 17 meeting at Tel Hi, and I can assure you that I will remain an active member of the neighborhood committee until this issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the majority of residents of North Beach.

-- Nadya Williams

April 14: Thoughts on the BDB


SPUR, the org that is pushing for the Central Subway also advocates high density/high-rise development (infill) in transit neighborhoods. Once the CS is completed the pressure will be on for high rise development and re-zoning. Two historical neighborhoods, Chinatown and North Beach, will be forever changed.
The overall cost has already doubled as has the cost of the Pagoda dig. By the time it’s completed (as presently planned) the project will run 2-3 billion – and with the austerity climate in Congress and White House it’s doubtful the Feds are going to bail out the city. Who is going to pay and what services will be cut? And two to three billion is probably optimistic —– two words: Bay Bridge.
And speaking of the Bay Bridge, a project managed by Caltrans with much more expertise and experience than SFMTA/Muni, it has had many glitches and cost over-runs. Do you really think the poorly managed SFMTA/Muni can carry off a project of this magnitude? I sure don’t.
Back to cost, SFMTA/Muni is raiding its O&M funds to pay for the Pagoda deal. Muni maintenance is already years and million$ behind schedule. To put it bluntly, (i) Muni is broke and broken and (ii) Muni couldn’t organize a one car funeral.
At no station does the CS connect with Muni or BART. That’s not exactly an integrated transit system.
Everything predicted by SFMTA/Muni has either increased (costs) or decreased (ridership).
$1.6 billion (and rising) for 1.7 miles of an underground two-car light rail system?! Ya gotta be kidding me! For a billion bucks you could give every SF citizen a voucher to ride in taxis for life.
While I would like to see the whole project stopped – burying or extracting the TBMs in Chinatown could save up to $80 million that could be used to improve Muni.
The Pagoda extraction will involve demolition, deep excavations, underground dewatering, discharge of contaminated water, hauling of dirt/debris, hundreds of hauling trucks, deep piles, deep concrete box, compensation grouting of loose soil, Powell Street closure, construction trailers/ equipment, rerouting of traffic/ buses, disruption of local businesses, probable damage to adjacent buildings and, per the Final EIR, SFMTA/Muni has the option of using the Pagoda tunnel to deliver construction materials to Chinatown causing years of additional disruption in North Beach.
SFMTA/MUNI is trying to get away with an Addendum to the EIR for the Pagoda option. There should be a new EIR to determine the impacts - this is a whole new can of worms. An independent geotechnical engineer found that there will be problems with saturated sandy soils, soil subsidence and damage to adjoining properties (for which the City’s own engineer recommends further testing and analysis). See back issues of “SF Weekly” for full details of this and other problems connected with not only the Pagoda but the entire idea. Even the “WSJ” reported that the CS is a stupid idea.
See Sunday’s Examiner for an article on how SFMTA/Muni will be asking the taxpayers to pony up millions more to pay for their piss-poor judgment and excruciatingly bad management.
With all due respect, I think everyone in City Hall needs to do more homework on the CS. While rapid transit has it’s place in the scheme of things, and I’m not against it in principle, the CS is a fatally flawed project and should have been stopped at the start. At a recent meeting Aaron Peskin, who supported it and voted for it, apologized for not stopping it when he was BOS President.
While I would dearly like to see that monument to blight Pagoda disappear, I don’t want it replaced by the Big Dig.

You have been informed.

April 14: Be there April 17!

Supervisors & Mr Mayor,

All of you have probably already got this invite but if you have any real cojones you better be there!

From the Constant Cranky Curmudgeon,

Lee in NB

From: THD

Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2013 7:55 PM


Subject: Central Subway Construction Meeting + Earth Day Recycling Event

Community Meeting with MUNI About Proposed Central Subway Construction in North Beach Wednesday, April 17 at 6:30 at Tel-Hi ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Electronics Recycling Event on Saturday, April 20th at Francisco Middle School


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

6:30 p.m.

Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, 660 Lombard Street

While MUNI has cancelled its plans to dig up the middle of Columbus Avenue for years to extract Central Subway drilling equipment for a station many blocks away, MUNI's new plan to divert millions of dollars from its operating and reserve funds and away from improved bus service to pay for a drilling machine extraction site under the Pagoda Theater is raising new questions. This community meeting with MUNI officials is a chance to ask for answers.

According to a recent San Francisco Examiner article, "Subway extraction budget tested," MUNI's original proposal to spend $9.15 million on this project is now faced with cost overruns of more than $4 million based on their contractor's revised estimate, which you can view by clicking here.

MUNI bus service to North Beach and Telegraph Hill has been slashed and threatened continually for years due to operational funding shortfalls. Today, residents and visitors to North Beach no longer have even one direct bus route to or from the Financial District that runs during non-rush hour times. And MUNI's proposed new "Transit Effectiveness Plan," would slash bus service to North Beach even further through cuts to the 8X line.

The diversion of millions in precious MUNI operating and reserve funds raises the question of whether we will face more cuts to North Beach bus lines for a drilling machine extraction project that could instead occur near the end of the Central Subway line on Washington Street.

The Central Subway construction in North Beach has not yet begun. If you are interested in the future of transit in our neighborhood, please attend this meeting and ask questions.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Earth Day Electronics Recycling Event Saturday

Saturday, April 20th, from 10 AM-2 PM, neighborhood Francisco Middle School is raising money by recycling old electronics equipment.

Bring your old TVs, computers and stereo equipment to the parking lot area at Francisco and Stockton Streets (2190 Powell, 94133) and we will recycle them for you. Tell your friends and family.

For a complete list of items to recycle go to the event web page at

For questions, contact Teresa Dal Santo at or 415-308-9019

This email was sent to by THD | P.O. Box 330159 | San Francisco | CA | 94111

April 13: Secret meeting


In the words of John Avalos you have been “fucked” and, more importantly you have been informed. Did you get an invitation to this clandestine cell meeting??

Some words from Howard Wong:

Secret meetings have begun to lobby for extending the Central Subway northward. Never mind the Subway's taking money from citywide Muni, causing service cuts, route eliminations, deferred maintenance, rising fees/ fares/ fines. The northeastern neighborhoods and waterfront have always been in the gentrification bulls-eye. Commuter transit will drive up land values, spur large development and threaten affordability/ diversity.
"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 and Dean of UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design
Like Mediterranean hill towns, San Francisco’s northeast neighborhoods are street environments. To activate every street, you want pedestrians and transit to pass by every storefront, streetscape, view corridor, park and monument---invigorating cafés, restaurants, shops, businesses and events. The distance from Downtown to Fisherman’s Wharf is only 1-½ miles. Columbus Avenue is 1 mile long. Washington Square is 1 mile from the Powell BART/ Metro Station. Chinatown is ½ mile from Market Street. You want more surprise encounters, social and commercial interactions.
We can energize all transit modes to every street and neighborhood---buses, trolleys, streetcars, cable cars, light rail, ferries, cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Instead of service cuts, route eliminations, increased fares/ fees/ fines and wasteful projects, Muni needs quick economical improvements, technology, transit-preferential streets, pedestrian-bicycle enhancements, street beautifications, robust commercial corridors and neighborhoods. Muni needs a citywide integrated system. By example, in 1973, Zurich’s voters rejected an expensive subway project and voted instead to implement a less costly transit-priority program----leading to one of the world’s highest per capita ridership rates because its transit service is fast, frequent, reliable and inexpensive.
Instead of moving economic centers of gravity with expensive subways, transit benefits should be distributed evenly and fairly to every street and neighborhood. It’s unfair to hurt some businesses while shifting benefits to others. San Francisco’s total economy can be invigorated with hundreds of miles of beautiful, tree-lined, transit-priority streets.

Forwarded message ----------

From: Ratna Amin, SPUR <>

Date: Fri, Mar 8, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Subject: You are Invited: SPUR Workshop to Identify Transit Needs and Options in the Northeast Neighborhoods - Saturday April 13

Dear John:

On behalf of SPUR, we would like to invite you to a visioning workshop to identify transit needs and options for Northeast San Francisco.

The Northeast neighborhoods are the city’s densest and most traffic congested; yet they lack fast, convenient and reliable transit service. While Phase II of the Muni Metro T-line (Central Subway) will bring rapid transit service to Chinatown, the line is currently planned to end there. SPUR is working with transportation and planning consultants, affected organizations, residents and businesses to jump start discussion of transit next steps for this key area and to infuse future planning with neighborhood input.

The workshop will be held in the Fisherman’s Wharf area on Saturday, April 13, 2013 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (location and other details will be furnished when you RSVP). The workshop will be facilitated by Arup consultants with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staff at hand to answer key questions and provide technical input. The SFMTA will present the results of the workshop to City officials in a strategic report that will inform future transit planning. You are being invited to participate in this workshop because you represent a key constituency whose voice needs to be heard.

We hope that you will join us!

Ratna Amin
SPUR Transportation Policy Director
Julie Christensen
SPUR Advisory Council
Stephen Taber
SPUR Advisory Council

April 12: Billion Dollar Boondoggle

Copy of article "Muni’s Central Subway extraction project could far exceed original budget," Will Reisman SF Examiner 04/12/13

Supervisors, in case you missed it, here is the latest cost update for the fatally flawed Central Subway.

You have been informed.

Lee Goodin

April 12: Tragedy of errors


An expert calls the Bay Bridge bolt failure a “comedy of errors.” It should be a called a “tragedy of errors.” Errors have plagued the bridge construction since the beginning. These errors occurred on a Caltrans project, an agency with much more expertise and experience than SFMTA/Muni. Yet SFMTA/Muni, who cannot efficiently operate and manage its existing rolling stock, has been given a billion dollar Central Subway construction project to bungle. Here comes another “tragedy of errors” created by the broke and broken SFMTA/Muni.

Supervisors, you have been informed.

Lee Goodin

April 11: Rising Pagoda Option costs


Updated cost documents from MTA would indicate that the construction costs for the Pagoda option have risen from $9.15 million to about $13.7 million.

View costs document   View preliminary engineering drawings

Previously, MTA proposed using $9.15 million from Muni O&M bus funds. Now it's nearly 50% higher, and may grow even more once construction plans are finalized.

In addition, the costs document is dated 3/1/13, well before the 3/26 neighborhood meeting which MTA refused to attend. The documents were received because of a Public Records Request.

At the upcoming April 17 neighborhood meeting with MTA, they have promised to answer neighborhood questions. The rising costs and lack of timely information seem like ones that should be brought to light. Given SFMTA’s past record, it’s doubtful that they will be forthcoming. Attend at your own risk.

Supervisors, you have been informed.

Lee Goodin

PS: As usual I don’t expect a response – but the record will show that YOU HAVE BEEN INFORMED. Good luck with future political ambitions.

April 1: Pagoda Perils


If the Central Subway Project is completed in 2019, most of you will be out of office---“immune” from any fiscal crisis left behind. The Board and staff of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will avert personal liability. Legally-crafted construction specifications will shift blame to general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers---and cost overruns will fall to taxpayers. However, in matters of life-safety, political immunity from construction failures should not be so easily granted, particularly when basic engineering and physics have known consequences.

In the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) letter of 1-10-10 to the SFMTA: “The Central Subway Project is a high risk project located in a densely populated urban center. It is the largest, most complex project ever undertaken by SFMTA.” The FTA has knowledge of past construction accidents (See “History of Accidents” below) and risky excavation in older areas of Downtown, Chinatown and North Beach. Unlike Hollywood Boulevard’s sinkhole or Cologne’s building collapse, the Central Subway is digging in narrower streets and in closer proximity to old buildings and shallow foundations---exacerbated by hilly terrain, underground water and saturated/ inconsistent soils.

In the SF Weekly, 2-27-13, “Central Subway: Muni’s Drilling Plan Strains Credulity”: “An audit by the firm CGR Management Consultants pegged the likelihood of the Central Subway coming in on budget at 30 percent.” Even highly-developed countries with the best engineers have been stunned by construction accidents involving deep excavations and tunneling (See “History of Accidents” below). If the Central Subway goes over budget, the additional dollars will be taken from local Muni sources.

Like the proposed Pagoda Theater excavation (See “A Case in Point” below), rudimentary assumptions have been made regarding geotechnical and building conditions. Nearby buildings have not had full structural analysis---only condition assessments. More pre-testing would reveal hidden aboveground and underground conditions. Standard construction procedures are insufficient, given the inconsistent soil conditions.

  • For excavations underneath 100-year old buildings, into inconsistent soils with high water tables, basic physics can predict the immense forces that can stress structures, streets and utilities.
  • The excavations’ lateral proximity to existing structures increases the odds of soil subsidence and cavity formations, especially with sloping hills, intervening alluvial-filled valleys and fractured rock.
  • Excavating to depths from 40-120 feet, the structural loading of saturated soils, combined with the dead loads of buildings and their contents, is large---prone to increased hydrostatic pressures, collapse of voids and soil subsidence.
  • The 1906 Earthquake and Fire affected the narrow streets along the route of the Central Subway, leaving remnants of rushed demolitions, underground rubble, artificial fill and voids.
  • Hilly terrain and alluvial valleys propel rainfall and underground water, saturating sandy soils, creating instability, vertical displacement.
  • Inconsistent soils are difficult to stabilize by compensation grouting alone, likely requiring expensive shoring, underpinning. slurry piles, tremie concrete construction.
  • Even in recent American tunneling projects, property owners have complained of noise, sewage, floods, and cracked foundations.

The Central Subway’s soft costs are over 23% of the project budget. While SFMTA staff use project funds for wages, a parallel consultant has been retained for project management (PM)---further shielding the City from liability. The PM consultant’s contract minimizes its own liability. In a crisis, the City and its PM consultant will shift blame to design professionals and construction contractors.

The City’s construction specifications, general conditions and contracts are crafted by City Attorneys to absolve the City of liability---loading liability on design professionals, general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers. Taxpayers will pay for cost overruns, resulting in decreased Muni operating budgets and transit service.

The SFMTA recently proposed extraction of Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) at the Pagoda Theater site. The Pagoda Project’s public process and fragile geotechnical conditions are systemic of the Central Subway’s overall approach. Much of hilly San Francisco has underground water/ streams, subsurface voids, rubble and inconsistent geological conditions---in addition to older buildings, brick foundations, shallow footings, seismic vulnerabilities and hidden conditions. Not all conditions have been studied.

  • Merchants and property owners, adjacent to the Pagoda, have not been consulted on engineering plans---in order for their vetting of design adequacy, risks, rights and compensation for damages (operational and structural).
  • The SFMTA’s initial design includes an approximately 50’x50’x46’ deep concrete TBM Retrieval Box, with 66’ deep perimeter secant pile walls. The concrete box is within 18'’-7"” of the adjacent 1907 brick warehouse building.
  • An independent geotechnical engineer submitted three letters, questioning the design’s efficacy and warning of likely damage to adjacent buildings due to subsidence.
  • In a Fee Proposal, the SFMTA’s own engineering consultant confirmed that potentially adverse effects to adjacent structures, historic buildings and park properties due to ground movement, groundwater inflows, ground loss and settlement had not yet been analyzed--- necessitating new geotechnical investigations.
  • No nearby building has foundations or basements deeper than 10 feet below grade.
  • No part of the 46-foot excavation will likely be in competent bedrock, digging 36 feet below the groundwater table.
  • There are inadequate geological/ structural studies of adjacent properties and historical studies of the region.
  • Underground springs flow from Russian Hill under the Pagoda Theater and adjacent buildings. Before 1906, on Filbert near Columbus, there once stood the “Palace Baths”, which tapped into underground springs. In the past, neighbors could hear rushing water underground.
  • The previous Muriel’s Theater project at the Pagoda encountered underground water, increasing construction costs. Also, removal of gas tanks at the old corner gas station hit underground water.
  • On Stockton Street at Washington Square, construction for Moose’s Restaurant encountered underground springs from Telegraph Hill, which flooded neighborhood basements periodically. A workman in the dark basement dropped a tool and heard a splash. His light revealed that he had just missed falling 20 feet into a well.
  • The nearby North Beach Pool subsided because of an underground stream, leading to a 2005 structural retrofit.

Relative to other construction techniques, deep excavation and tunneling have extensive failures---especially at sites with older buildings, fragile geological conditions, soil inconsistency, underground water and seismic vulnerabilities. As required by the Federal Transit Administration, all cost overruns are the responsibility of the City & County of San Francisco and its contractors and subcontractors.

Taxpayers, designers and builders need to assure due diligence to protect their own interests. Existing and hidden conditions require thorough analysis. Project contingencies must cover cost overruns. The City’s underlying politics is to construct 2,000 foot tunnels for the northerly subway extension----without environmental reviews. Business associations and real estate interests want to escalate land values and large development prospects. But fiscally prudent alternatives exist to conserve funds. The SFMTA plans to spend $9.15 million from its operating funds for the Pagoda Theater Project, in order to retrieve two TBMs valued at $4.4 million. Moreover, the twin 2,000 foot tunnels from Chinatown to North Beach will cost up to $70 million. If the TBMs are extracted or buried at the Chinatown Station, SFMTA can save $79 million---better spent on construction contingency and Muni service enhancements.

(Compiled by Howard Wong)

Supervisors, you have been informed.

Lee Goodin

March 23: Please read this


If you have not already read this – please do. Who is running the city? The Mayor and the BOS or SFMTA?! Would appreciate your comments – a response, please.

Lee Goodin

Central Subway: Muni's Drilling Plan Strains Credulity By Joe Eskenazi SF Weekly, Wednesday, Feb 27 2013

March 23: I told you so


Remember this?? Can I hear a big “I told you so?!”

Lee Goodin

Muni Fail by Matt Smith, SF Weekly, Wednesday, Mar 3 2010

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