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Bayview neighbors sniff out traffic issues in sewer plant replacement plans

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A conceptual rendering of the proposed improvements and structure for the biosolids digester facilities in San Francisco’s Bayview district. (Courtesy San Francisco Public Utilities Commission)

For two decades, Mark Klaiman has been confronted with “smells that will burn your nose or make your eyes tear” as a business owner across the street from a wastewater treatment plant in Bayview.

While that means he is looking forward to the day that workers finish rebuilding part of the Southeast Treatment Plant in 2023, limiting the odors to the fence-line, Klaiman and other neighbors are concerned with what happens in the meantime.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission plans to close a section of Jerrold Avenue between Phelps Street and the Caltrain tracks for about five years beginning in 2018, adding to the traffic woes of a neighborhood where several other street and housing construction projects are underway.

Public utilities officials are planning to modernize the solids treatment facilities at the plant, which was built in 1952 and treats 80 percent of the stormwater and sewage flows in The City.

Klaiman, co-owner of Pet Camp animal daycare on Phelps Street, joined local business owners in raising concerns about traffic impacts at the Planning Commission last Thursday, where commissioners reviewed the draft Environmental impact report for the project.

“We at least need to have it upgraded to a modern standard,” said Commissioner Christine Johnson. “It is an environmental justice issue that we have equipment that is so completely beyond its usefulness still handling beyond 80 percent of the solids and wastewater in our city.”

Johnson said she first noticed the smell when she joined the Hunter’s Point Shipyard advisory committee.

“I drove down Third Street at the time and passed by,” Johnson said. “At the time I didn’t know what it was but I was like, ‘what was that smell, what was that?.’”

The facility is expected to open in 2025 after five years of construction and two of testing, according to the SFPUC.

“In five years, your children will start college, graduate from college, get married and have their first child before anyone can go down Jerrold Avenue,” said Michael Hamman, a contractor in the Bayview. “It’s very possible you could all become grandparents before they open Jerrold Avenue.”

Hamman, who sits on the neighborhood advisory council, said he is concerned about construction impacts to the three arterial streets in the Bayview.

While Jerrold Avenue would be closed, Public Works took bids last month for a separate streetscape improvement project on Evans Avenue. Oakdale Avenue will be untouched, but Hamman thinks it may experience more traffic as a result of the other two projects.

“Imagine if you would that they’ve disrupted Van Ness, but they’ve also closed Gough and Franklin,” Hamman said. “That would be a catastrophe for this city and that is the nature for this perfect storm … on our neighborhood.”

Johnson said the commission should look into the traffic impacts.

“Five years is not a lifetime, but it is a long time,” Johnson said. “It would be good for us to dot all our i’s and cross our t’s when it comes to how we can get this project done with the least amount of impact possible.”

According to the EIR, the SFPUC plans to “hire a Southeast Area Program Construction Manager who would (among other things) oversee construction staging and traffic control planning” before construction begins.

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