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Sept 3, 2013: No NB Dig: Muni snubs North Beach businesses; Unbuilt SF: Rebels with a Cause

Pagoda demolition follies and disregard of businesses

Muni's demolition contractor, MH Construction, had no prior experience with this type of structure and it shows.  The MH crew inspires disbelief, head shaking, and a fear that they will accidentally demolish all the buildings around the Pagoda.

Businesses next to the Pagoda site have experienced extremely poor treatment from MH Construction and Muni.  Liz Ferro of Bottle Cap Restaurant recently wrote to Muni:

"Everything we were told about how construction would go has
been false.  Extended hours, working on the weekends, dust control,
pest control ... nothing as promised.  It is more than obvious that no
one is looking out for our businesses and that you will sacrifice us
and our employees to do this job.  It's shocking how little you care
for the people in this community ... ."

Below are other pleas to Muni from business owners to spare them from the unprofessional, disruptive, and dangerous demolition activities.

Do we really want Muni's next contractor in North Beach digging a 50x50 by 42-foot deep extraction shaft for the next six months?  This will include a couple thousand dump truck trips through the neighborhood, streets blocked, cranes and excavators working, and more noise and dust?  This might be acceptable if there were some benefit for North Beach at the end of the messy job, but remember there will be no Central Subway Station here once the dust clears.  Write to these officials and tell them residents deserve all the facts before another construction project begins, and that the Pagoda Option is unnecessary and will break the Central Subway budget.

Keith Breitbach, a videographer who lives behind the Pagoda site, captured the demolition experience from his back porch in this video.

Unbuilt SF: Rebels with a Cause


Be sure to catch a screening of Rebels with a Cause, an award-winning film about residents in the 1960's who saved parts of Marin from rampant real estate development, including the Marin Headlands, Stinson, Bolinas, and more.  It's in town this week and next:

Wednesday, September 4, 5:30 pm San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street  Architecture and the City Festival

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 7 PM, SPUR, 654 Mission Street  SPUR - Unbuilt SF: The View From Futures Past

Hopefully, a future edition of Unbuilt SF will include the Pagoda Option and 8 Washington.


Recent emails from North Beach business owners to Muni

From: Dario Hadjian <>
 Mark J Seifert Esq
Sent: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 6:42 PM

Thank you, Ms Boomer, for your prompt response.

The main reason I am contacting your office is because I have not been
helped in any way in regards to my repeated requests for assistance in
dealing with the way this whole demolition project has been carried
on. So far, as I mentioned in my previous emails, none of the rules,
regulations, or codes for the demolition of a huge building in a busy
location have been respected. This past weekend they worked on
Saturday and on Monday (Labor Day), and were supposed to stop at 3:30
pm.  Monday I had to argue with the MTA representative to get them to
stop working around 4 pm, and today the amount of dust from the
demolition was unbearable. Most of the day my internet was not working
and finally when the AT&T technician showed up at 4:00 pm we found out
the internet was down due to falling objects that cut our phone line.
This phone line is important to our business since we use the internet
for our reservations, credit card processing, and more. The south wall
of my building was damaged and all sorts of debris were flying
everywhere. When I complained to the MTA representative, the response
was, well, you can get the phone fixed and they will pay for it. About
the wall and debris, I was told they will fix and paint it.  When I
asked him if he thought they should stop and secure our property
before going any further, his answer was, well, they will be done
soon.  Ms Boomer, is there anyone that you know of who can help
explain how a project managed by the City of San Francisco can be
carried out in this unprofessional and dangerous manner? And is there
anyone who can help us with the issues that have been raised above? 

Respectfully yours,
Dario Hadjian
Piazza Pellegrini


From: "Boomer, Roberta" <>
To: Dario Hadjian <>
Sent: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 10:10 AM

Dear Mr. Hadjian:
Thank you for taking the time to bring this to the attention of the
SFMTA Board of Directors.  They have provided your email to Mr. Ed
Reiskin, Director of Transportation and to Mr. John Funghi, Director,
Central Subway Project for their information.
Roberta Boomer
Secretary, SFMTA Board of Directors


To: Board of Supervisors,,,,,,,,, Mark J Seifert Esq.
Sent: Friday, August 30, 2013 12:06 PM

My name is Dario Hadjian and I own and operate the small restaurant
adjacent to the infamous Pagoda Theater. For the last 9 years we have
been a concerned, generous and law-abiding business and have worked
very hard to create it and keep it going through all conditions. In
the last few months, since the theater demolition plans were announced
by SFMTA, we have been told and promised that you will do several
things: maintain a safe work site, reduce noise and dust, control
traffic, keep within announced work hours and work days, and other
. None of these have been kept. In the view of many concerned
neighbors and professional contractors this project has been
mismanaged from the very start. We have tried to bring these issues to
the attention of our city representatives as well as all city agencies
responsible for the supervision of these matters. As a small business
with limited resources we feel neglected and not heard. In recent
weeks we have experienced a significant drop in revenue due to the
demolition of the theater next door to us. My question to you is, how
damage is acceptable in your view for us to put up with? We are
told that the demolition contractor is behind schedule and needs to
work overtime on weekdays and weekends. Would it be OK if we as a
small restaurant were to stay open past our legally permitted hours to
recover lost time and revenues? It seems to me that our business is
suffering the most from the lack of proper planning and management on
the part of these contractors and SFMTA.


 MTABoard <>,,,
Sent: Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 11:36 AM


It seems we have a much more difficult problem here than first
expected.  Everything we were told about how construction would go has
been false.  Extended hours, working on the weekends, dust control,
pest control ... nothing as promised.  It is more than obvious that no
one is looking out for our businesses and that you will sacrifice us
and our employees to do this job.  It's shocking how little you care
for the people in this community and how easily you have lied to us.
When I write, I receive no response, just a stock email from the
Board.  I'm sure you're all incredibly busy, but I think someone
should reach out to us.  I'm sure everyone will be enjoying an
extended holiday weekend, while Dario and I struggle to stay afloat
during the storm of this project. 

Liz Ferro (Bottle Cap Restaurant)

July 28: YABCA 2; mystery of the missing Pagoda demolition permit

If you've been by the Pagoda site you've seen workmen and trucks there, and the plywood with graffiti has been taken down. But according to City inspectors no demolition has been done.

Of course, we keep seeing the usual YABCA (Yet Another Bogus Construction Announcement), and even though there are workers at the site there is no demolition permit posted. Normally, no permit, no work can be done. When the workmen are asked about the permit they point to a small sign attached to the construction fence:

 Not a demolition permit. Not a demolition permit.

Where is the Pagoda demolition permit? No one seems to know and no one in the City is tellin'. Most demolition permits are issued by the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and you can track them at their online site (as of this writing, July 28, there is nothing for the Pagoda since February). Rumor has it Muni writes their own permits independent of DBI - hard to believe, even the Chinatown station at 947 Stockton has full DBI permits. We're trying to track it down.

If you see workmen at the Pagoda site tearing down the building and they can't produce a permit, call 558-6570 and file a complaint for "work being done without a permit."

On the lighter side:

June Osterberg wrote two articles about the historic theater on Washington Square, including the time The Cockettes made it their home.

Paul Page, the "Dave Barry" of No Dig, wrote a song, Sittin' in a hole by the Transbay (with help from Otis Redding), about recent cost overruns. Also see his comments on CW Nevius' July 16 Chronicle blog.

June 28: Mysterious banner; Pagoda demolition vs Philly disaster


There is no Muni Board meeting on Tuesday, July 2.  Mark your calendar for Tuesday, July 16.

Several people have asked who put up and took down the banner on the Pagoda Theater.  Some North Beach folks put it up Tuesday morning, and it was taken down sometime between 4 pm and 6 pm the same day.  We don't know who took it down, most likely Muni.  If you saw who did it please get in touch.  Still, the message on the banner is a very likely scenario so please continue to write to City officials as described below.


Farewell Will Reisman

Will has covered transportation for the San Francisco Examiner for the past several years, including Central Subway and Pagoda Option issues, and we will miss his well-written and informative articles.

 Muni Construction Yard banner on Pagoda Theater
Muni Construction Yard banner on Pagoda Theater

Mysterious Pagoda banner

Thanks to all who wrote about the banner to City officials.  Several who wrote reported back that City officials did not directly respond to the message.  Please continue to write to them and demand a satisfactory answer about plans for the Pagoda site - will the site be used for the duration of the Central Subway project as a northern access for materials going in or out?  Please forward all responses you receive.

Another view

On Tuesday morning a banner showed up on the Pagoda Theater, "Muni Construction Yard 2013 to 2018."  The 6-year span was a surprise to many observers.  The banner was torn down early Tuesday evening.

For more about the banner message, and why Muni will likely occupy the site for Central Subway construction for the next 6 years or more, see this explanation.

And we still don't get a Central Subway station in the foreseeable future, just lots of dust, trucks, and merchants hurt.

Pagoda demolition vs Philly disaster

Howard Wong recently noted parallels between the early-June building demolition disaster in Philadelphia and the proposed Pagoda demolition. He notes that a tragedy like this can occur if demolition is rushed and engineering isn't properly done.

 Philly demolition dysaster

Philly: White building at left was demolished, crushing the smaller yellow building.

 Pagoda and Pellegrini buildings

North Beach: Can the white building (Pagoda Theater) be safely demolished next
to the smaller yellow building (Piazza Pellegrini)?

For Howard's analysis of the Pagoda demolition and other problems see his complaint.

What you can do


Write to those responsible and ask them for a straight answer on how the Pagoda site will be used and for how long.  Please forward all responses you receive.

Tell Muni you won't settle for the poor planning and deceptive explanations of the Pagoda Option.  Next Muni Board meeting is Tuesday, July 16, 1 p.m.



June 16: Speak to Muni Board, Tuesday June 18; Peskin letter hits key Pagoda issues

Speak at the Muni Board Meeting, Tuesday, June 18, 1 p.m.  City Hall, Room 400.  Let me know if you want to speak so we can coordinate our messages to the Muni Board.  The agenda is clear so we should be out by 2.  First time?  No problem, we have talking points for you.


Breaking News Former Supervisor Aaron Peskin calls out Muni

For your enjoyment:

The 30-Stockton sea chantey by Tara

Ode to Muni by Paul Page

A MUNI whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the city's tax treasure chest...

June 8: Peskin letter hits key Pagoda issues; next Mock Funeral, Friday June 14


Breaking News Former Supervisor Aaron Peskin calls out Muni

Speak at the Transportation Authority Meeting, June 11


Mock funeral for Pagoda Palace: Friday June 14, 5 p.m.  This is the second time for this quirky and only-in-North Beach event.  Wear your funeral finest, and let folks here know about the proposed Pagoda Big Dig and what it would do to the North Beach village.


Photos & videos of No Dig speakers at June 4 Muni and Board of Supervisors meetings

What we need is a North Beach Spring - R K Oytauer blog

Ode to Muni by Paul Page

A MUNI whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the city's tax treasure chest...


June 2: Make it 20 at Muni Board meeting; next mock funeral Friday, June 14

Gang of 12, more needed.  Appear at the Muni Board meeting Tuesday, June 4 at 1.  We have a dozen speakers confirmed, how about making it 20?  With a large contingent we can make some news, and alert San Franciscans of the horrible Pagoda Big Dig and the waste of $70 million.  Take a couple of hours and come to stick up for the 'hood.

Mock funeral for Pagoda Palace
: Friday June 14, 5 p.m.  This is the second time for this quirky and only-in-North Beach event.  Wear your funeral finest, and let folks here know about the proposed Pagoda Big Dig and what it would do to the North Beach village.


Breaking News Former Supervisor Aaron Peskin calls out Muni

New blogs by R K Oytauer (ruth's words) and C C Curmudgeon.

Rebels with a Cause - documentary about 1960's Marin folks who pushed out developers who were trying to make Pt. Reyes and the GGNRA into a Los Angeles-like suburb.  Here's a trailerPlaying this week at the RoxieHighly recommended.

May 26: Feds coming down on Muni budget, schedule

Speak at the Board of Supervisors Budget meeting
The current budget season is a good time to remind SF Supervisors of the Central Subway budget problems and how removing the Pagoda Big Dig can help.  By 2018 the projected SF Budget shortfall is $487.2 million, which is nearly doubled by the 2018 projected Central Subway shortfall of $422 million.

Breaking News: Feds say Muni low on money, time

Review the Federal documents


New Mock funeral photos

New C C Curmudgeon rants

New R K Oytauer blog

May 23: Federal report: Muni too short on time and money

Breaking News: Feds say Muni low on money, time

Review the Federal documents

Some items for your enjoyment:

Recent entries at C C Curmudgeon.

New page: Quotes

New video by Keith Breitbach

May 17: Mock funeral; Budget town hall; Howard Wong's Muni budget study

Amazing video of North Beach folks talking about the impending Pagoda Big Dig and how it will affect the area: June Osterberg, Howard Wong, Nadya Williams, Winston Smith.


Muni Board meeting Tuesday, May 21 1 p.m. City Hall Room 400

No Dig supporters will speak on agenda item 9: Public Comment.  Voice your opposition to the Pagoda Big Dig.


The largest contract for the Central Subway, the construction of four stations, will be discussed as agenda item 11.


May 12: Lawrence Ferlinghetti in support; speak out at meetings Tuesday and Saturday; more Muni budget woes


Video of the No NB Dig presence at Muni Board meeting May 7.  Mark your calendars for the next meeting Tuesday, May 21 1 p.m.  We will have a large number of supporters at this meeting.


Speak out: Friends of Washington Square meeting, Tuesday May 14, 6:30 p.m.

Speak out: Mayor's Town Hall on the SF Budget, with David Chiu & Mark Farrell, Saturday, May 18 10 a.m.  Ask about the $487.2 million SF Budget shortfall by 2018, the Central Subway $400 million shortfall by 2018, and how canceling the $70 million Pagoda Option would help.

New explanation of the Pagoda Option: a straight version.  The light-hearted version is still available as well.

Muni spending and budget woes: three recent articles show our transit system is out of control.

See the complete archive of C C Curmudgeon letters to the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor, and the press.

Donate to for upcoming posters and other campaign materials.

May 5: Pagoda Option construction could begin soon; Inspector General opens file on Pagoda

We found out Saturday May 4 that the Pagoda demolition contract just went out to bid.  Bids are due May 24 and have to be approved, so highly likely demolition won't begin before early June.

New blog entry by North Beach observer R. K. Oytauer.

The campaign has a new logo — see top of this page.  It has a tie-in to an earlier Central Subway-like project --- can you guess what the connection is?  (Solution below.)

MTA Director Ed Reiskin wrote an odd Op-ed in the May 2 SF ExaminerJudge for yourself.  Paul Page has some observations on this Op-ed, including the plight of Muni riders "with our faces squished against bus windows."

The Inspector General for the Department of Transportation has received several letters from supporters of NoNorthBeachDig about the Pagoda Option, and has opened an investigation.

See the new blog by North Beach observer R. K. Oytauer.


We have raw video files from the Jan 22 and April 17 meetings.  One or two videos are being prepared for YouTube and sites.  Let us know if you are interested in making a video from this raw footage

North Beach artist Winston Smith has joined the No North Beach Dig team, and will work with fellow artists to create new campaign artwork.  New posters and web site banner due soon.

April 27: Central Subway budget problems may be good for North Beach; New Pagoda Option guide

See this great article by Samson Wong of Asian Week on the April 17 meeting, including the crowd photo.


$100 Million extra cost weakens Central Subway budget

Increased Central Subway costs could be good for North Beach.  Budget shortfall could be solved by cutting $70 million Pagoda Option.


New guide to the Pagoda Option

Looney Tunes characters help tell the story.

Honolulu lawsuit shows what could be North Beach endgame

Honolulu rail project halted for EIR, archeology studies.  Pagoda Option should be stopped for same reasons and more.

Donate to for upcoming posters and other campaign materials.

The new campaign logo uses the London Underground font.  The font design was begun by Edward Johnston in 1913 (100 years ago)


Web site updated September 7, 2014;