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Negotiations, approvals still await Muni’s plans to extract Central Subway tools

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Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
Dario Hadjian’s restaurant

While Muni negotiates with a North Beach property owner on how it will remove boring tools for the Central Subway project, major planning and approval decisions regarding the controversial extraction process await.

Outrage among residents and merchants over plans to remove the machines at Columbus Avenue led the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, to propose taking out the equipment at the Pagoda Palace, a derelict former movie theater.

The agency estimated that it would have to find an extra $8 million to purchase or lease the site at Columbus Avenue and Powell Street. There also was talk of the theater potentially becoming a station for the neighborhood, should Muni buy the building.

Purchasing the site, however, is no longer being considered, according to Martin Kirkwood, a broker who manages the building for owner Joel Campos. The building already had been cleared for a separate redevelopment project, and Campos still has every intention of moving forward with that plan, Kirkwood said.

The agency is now looking to lease out the property for two years — the length of time it will take construction crews to raze the building, tunnel the equipment under the property and build a retrieval shaft belowground. Once that work is completed, Campos can move forward with plans to build condos and a Mexican restaurant at the site.

With negotiations ongoing between the agency and Campos, neither side would discuss the financial terms of the two-year lease. Kirkwood did say that Campos has already invested $10 million in purchasing the building and paying for other costs.

Bond Yee, the transit agency’s director of sustainable streets, said terms of the contract would be up for approval at a board of directors meeting Feb. 5. The agency also is expected to provide details on how it would pay for the lease, Yee said.

Along with needing approval from directors, the lease deal must be authorized by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Because of Campos’ redevelopment plans, The City needs to approve a special-use district for the site.

The Planning Commission will vote on that issue at its Feb. 7 meeting, and the Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing at its land-use committee meeting Feb. 11. The full board will vote on whether to approve the special district at its Feb. 12 and Feb. 26 meetings.

Even if the plan is approved by those various entities, it will likely still rankle neighbors.

Dario Hadjian, owner of Piazza Pellegrini, an Italian restaurant with ample outdoor seating located next door to the Pagoda Palace, said he’s concerned about the planned construction.

“Who is going to want to eat here when there is a crane and 18-wheelers and dirt flying by outside?”  Hadjian said. “San Francisco claims to be a city that is friendly to small business, but this will kill mine.”

The $1.6 billion Central Subway project will extend Muni’s underground Metro service from South of Market to Chinatown. It is expected to be completed in 2019.


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