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Letters written about the Pagoda option

See also: C C Curmudgeon, SaveSFMuni


Lawrence Ferlinghetti (to Winston Smith), May 11, 2013

(NoNorthBeachDig supporter Winston Smith received this note from Lawrence Ferlinghetti, from an inquiry via Winston's publisher Ron Turner. -Ed.)

Hail, Winston---Ron Turner forwarded your enquiry, i.e. what do I think of the Big Dig and the Pagoda? I think 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 historic North Beach, the special ambience of this fragile quarter will be greatly diminished.

If you can use my opinions in any opposition campaign, please do.

Best regard---Lawrence Ferlinghetti

P.S. You may also use the name of City Lights, in opposition.

Rene Bihan, April 22, 2013

(Note: The "group" mentioned in this opinion apparently refers to all who were at the April 17 meeting and who oppose the Pagoda Option. is currently not an organized group. Mr Bihan offered to let his opinion be published here "in the spirit of instilling a civil conversation about the project." -Ed.)

Pro-Pagoda Option and Pro-Nevius opinion

From my perspective, the Nevius article was spot on. Perhaps that's because I'm "pro subway," which means dig the tunnel as far as we possibly can with federal resources while we have it. When a show of hands was asked for, it was clear that the room was split. I would even say that more favored the subway extension than not. Even after that several in the group insisted that everyone in the room was against the phase 3 tunnel/extraction. The propaganda being put out by your group is one-sided, full of false information, and outright hostile towards anyone who disagrees with you. This is the same tactic which was used for the closure of Mason Street or the new Library. Many of the comments made during the meeting were quite hostile: "we are all against the tunnel and extraction," "this will destroy the neighborhood forever," or accusations of severe mistrust accusing Supervisor Chiu of working for "the developer" (there is no developer here), or how the construction will destroy businesses. Nevius was particularly correct when he notes that Chiu received 75% of the vote in the district while Bruno received almost none. I actually voted for Bruno because I believe he has a lot of integrity but that was before I read his one-sided response to Nevius. Just because your group screams loud does not give it the right to claim the majority. These very tactics were very divisive as they were applied to the Library and Mason Street projects. Please ask your group to tone down the rhetoric and beef up the facts. But most of all please be civil as we are all neighbors and will live together for many years to come.

By the way — subway or no subway, the demolition of the Pagoda will cause more damage, debris and noise than the subway. And even without the subway it's finally coming down.

Rene Bihan, NB architect

Joan Wood, April 21, 2013

Did the Chronicle proofread Nevius' article?

To: SF Chronicle


Doesn't the Chron have fact-checkers? Mr. Nevius' column Saturday is full of errors both large and small. He disparages protesters about the Central Subway but this is not a good excuse to distort and alter facts. The MTA is paying $3.15M to rent property opposite Washington Square for a giant box for the Boring Machines to exit — 7 blocks beyond the last Subway stop in Chinatown. Then more millions to the contractor to be paid out of bus operation funds. First of all Nevius, who attended the meeting last week held to pacify North Beach for up to 2 year's disruption, states voters approved the subway in 2003. Not true. Then he repeats the lie that North Beach in an earlier community meeting voted for the Pagoda Theatre site over 4 other exit plans presented to us by Supervisor Chiu with a promise to submit all options to the MTA Board. All options then disappeared and officials now deny that the vote even occurred! Nevius could at the very least mention that there is a difference of opinion. Finally he states the MTA would have to pay $55M to buy back the machines from the contractor if they were to be buried as is usually done nationally and internationally. They are estimated to be worth $5M at most. Nevius seemingly does not proof read his own material. You should print a retraction.

Joan Wood, North Beach

Concerned NB residents April 20, 2013

SF Chronicle insults North Beach

In his April 20th column SF Chronicle CW Nevius had a lot to say about the neighborhood meeting conducted in North Beach on April 17th. If he was present at the meeting it didn't show. His simplistic account of the proceedings was long on innuendo and pejorative adjectives, but very short on the substance of what was being discussed.

Here's just one of many examples of what Mr. Nevius apparently doesn't grasp.

In order to extract its Central Subway tunnel boring machines, the SFMTA (Muni) wants to dig a huge hole at the site of the Pagoda Theater, despite the fact that the subway ends over a half a mile to the South. The question is: why spend a reported eighty to one hundred million extra dollars drilling over 4,000 feet of non-functional tunnel, and an additional twenty million dollars developing an unneeded Pagoda extraction site? If these features were required to properly complete the Central Subway it would be one thing. But they're not, because there are proven ways of dealing with TBM's that would require neither extra tunneling nor an extraction shaft, as any tunnel expert can readily verify. This critical matter is one of the subjects that the MTA spokespeople doggedly refuse to discuss, no matter how often and how vociferously the question is raised by increasingly frustrated and angry residents.

Actually there is no mystery as to what is going on. The intrusion into the Washington Square area is not about TBM extraction at all. Instead it's about using Central Subway money to begin work on a future extension beyond Chinatown that may or may not ever be approved and funded. At a time when project costs are rising, to the point where they already exceed the project budget, and Muni's fiscal situation is getting worse not better, this preoccupation with a future extension to Fisherman's Wharf is the height of folly ... a reality that apparently passes right over the head of Columnist Nevius.

Concerned NB Residents

Marc Bruno, April 19, 2013

Central Subway / North Beach Meeting on Wed. 04.17.13

[ Letter removed at author's request. ]

Paul Page, April 19, 2013

To: (Several SF newspapers)

Neighborhood Hoodwinked

Slimy, Slippery, Supervisor. Which of these words is out of place? None of them because if you had listened to Supervisor Chiu describe the planning behind the North Beach tunnel during Wednesday’'s Tel-Hi/North Beach Community Center meeting, you would know they fit him to a "“T"”.

“"T"” as in Third Street rail to Chinatown or the Tunnel to Nowhere — not to North Beach, at least. Supervisor Chiu represents about six blocks in North Beach, but you would think he owns the place. The planning process for the Central Subway, from CEQA to NEPA, was so bad that Wednesday'’s meeting suggested at least four or five options for where the Chinatown subway is supposed to end. Was it Union, or Washington, or Filbert streets? None of the residents in North Beach can get it right because Chiu told them one thing, MTA's Ed Reiskin another, and the MUNI engineers yet another.

The problem is that according to the FEIR/FEIS, upon which the Federal Government promised $942 million dollars, the end of the Central Subway line is at Stockton and Washington Streets. Nothing else beyond that intersection was ever studied officially. No noise studies. No study of historical property impacts. No study of air and water pollution. No study of impacts on businesses.

Someone has hijacked the planning process in North Beach. The Pagoda Palace is hundreds of feet away from the official end of the Central Subway, and now promises to be a major tunnel construction zone, much to the surprise of everyone who lives around it, which happens to be not too many people because, surprise, it is located next to a couple of parks, like Washington Square Park.

Hoodwinked is the word. From what I heard Wednesday, the residents of North Beach don'’t like being deceived. What kind of grassroots enterprise is Board President Chiu running? He obviously doesn’'t know much about CEQA, at least not in North Beach, but yet is the chair of the Board’'s Land Use Committee. What a tragedy unfolding for the City. Your neighborhood is next.

Paul Page, April 19, 2013

To: Will Reisman, SF Examiner

Hi Will:

Here's my perspective on Wednesday night's North Beach meeting with MUNI.

Trojan Tunnel

To shaft or not to shaft — that was the question on everyone’s mind at Telegraph Hill’s Wednesday night meeting with MUNI. Over 100 people attended, overflowing the place, and the loudest consensus was: no one likes getting shafted.

The ‘shaft’ is the tunnel to North Beach from Chinatown’s Central Subway stop, to be designed and constructed at a cost of about $70 million, merely to remove a wasted tunnel boring machine (TBM) from underground. Ignoring the facts, and the residents desire, that the TBM be buried in place just like 90% of the TBMs used around the world, Supervisor Chiu, MUNI official Ed Reiskin, and engineers Funghi and Redmond vacillated, obfuscated, and otherwise lied that it can’t be done — without explaining why.

TBM’s, which cost about $10 million to build, are custom built to order. No two tunnel drilling activities are exactly alike. Each site has different soil conditions, different water table conditions, different hole diameters, and differing levels of overhead loads. TBMs are not reusable, transposable, or interchangeable. This is why 90 percent of all TBMs, from the Chunnel to the New York subway system, are parked and buried underground. Defying common sense and engineering practice, MUNI wants to remove their TBM’s. Why? MUNI is leasing their TBM from the contractor!

North Beach would love a subway system, after choosing its alignment and stop location, but do not want one shoved down their throats. MUNI’s Trojan Tunnel from Chinatown is seen as having ulterior motives, such as: unjustly enriching a property owner by removing his building, the Pagoda Theater, at public expense; keeping Rose Pak happy by not digging up the TBMs in the middle of Stockton Street; and finally, screwing North Beach businesses by putting a potential transit stop well downhill from their businesses.

Recent BOS President Aaron Peskin, North Beach residents and businesses will not take the shaft sitting down. Why spend $70 million to remove $9 million in equipment? Why not conduct a real environmental impact study of a preferred North Beach tunnel location? WTF is wrong with MUNI’s bus system? After 100 years in existence, MUNI should know right from wrong by now.

Nadya Williams, April 14, 2013

Opposed to TBM extraction in North Beach

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

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