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West Portal merchants fear Twin Peaks Tunnel construction could hurt business

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Roti Shah, owner of Roti Indian Bistro, said the loss of parking due to the summer-long Twin Peaks Tunnel closure and construction project will hurt his business, which depends on take-out and to-go orders. “My business is going to die. That’s it,” Shah said. (Photo by Ian Williams/S.F. Examiner)

Half of the business-front parking spots on the block of West Portal Avenue near the West Portal Muni station won’t see any cars this summer. They will, instead, house back-hoes and gravel.

The block has been designated as a staging area for construction expected to last two months during the closure of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, which started Monday.

Northbound West Portal Avenue between Vicente and Ulloa streets has been closed, while the southbound side of the street remains open.

SEE RELATED: Twin Peaks tunnel repairs could speed up Muni commute

For the businesses that reside along the once sleepy commercial street, the loss of parking comes as a blow.

“My business is going to die. That’s it,” said Roti Shah, owner of Roti Indian Bistro. His restaurant is just one of many that depends on convenient parking for both patrons and employees to survive. “I know it has to happen, but 60 days is too long.”

Half of Shah’s business is delivery and to-go, and the store only has one delivery driver. If customers have to park several blocks away to pick their food up, they’ll go somewhere else, he said.

In addition to removing parking spots, the SFMTA has erected large wooden barriers between the sidewalk and the street to prevent pedestrians from wandering into the ongoing construction site. These barriers, however, will use plexiglass on their top portion so business fronts and names will remain visible, a San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency official said.

The agency will also be placing signs up at adjacent intersections advertising the businesses are still open. This comes after members of the West Portal Merchants Association, including Shah, noted that only signs broadcasting the street closure had been posted.

Monday night is the first time businesses will experience the full impact of the tunnel closure and loss of parking.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens,” said Pedro Galletti, owner of Mozzarella Di Bufala Pizzeria. “My business is going to suffer no matter what.”

Summer is traditionally slow along West Portal Avenue’s terminus, but Galletti says the construction will exacerbate the problem. Although 80 percent of his business is delivery, the lack of parking will impact his business just the same.

His drivers will have to park blocks away from the restaurant, he said, which will wreak havoc on the swift delivery time that most pizzerias take pride in.

Several year ago sewer lines were replaced along the same stretch of road, but commercial impact was limited because parking spaces were cleared of construction equipment after 5 p.m., Galletti said.

That won’t happen this year because, according to Galletti, the construction will continue 24 hours a day.

“Today is the first day, let’s see how it goes,” Galletti said. “Maybe we’ll figure something out.”

Tunnel closure

The century-old tunnel Twin Peaks tunnel will have its tracks and drainage system replaced and its walls repaired during this summer’s two month closure.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials say the work will allow them to lift a speed restriction that has until now slowed trains to 40 miles per hour.

The construction project will shut down the Forest Hill and West Portal stations.

SEE RELATED: Twin Peaks Tunnel closes for the summer

The K Ingleside line will run on a shortened route, operating between West Portal Avenue/Sloat Avenue/Portola Drive and Balboa Park Station. It will then continue as the J Church line to Embarcadero. The SFMTA recommends riders heading downtown transfer to BART at Balboa Park.

On weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., Muni riders transferring from M buses or K trains to BART at Balboa Park can pick up a free BART single-ride ticket that will take them downtown as far as the Embarcadero BART Station, according to the SFMTA website.

L buses will run between the San Francisco Zoo and Church station. They will not stop at 15th Avenue and Taraval, Ulloa and Forest Side, and West Portal Station. Temporary bus stops, however, have placed.

A full map of the train and bus service has been provided on the SFMTA website.

In addition to replacing the drainage system and old tracks, the construction will install seismic upgrades and improve the fire suppression system at West Portal Station.

The continuous closure will run for about two months, according to the SFMTA, but construction will not be completed until Winter 2019.

Construction is being staged on both sides of the tunnel, which has temporarily removed parking on the east and west sides of Junipero Serra, between Ocean Avenue and Sloat Boulevard. This parking, the SFMTA website said, will be removed until construction is complete. Traffic on Junipero Serra will not be affected.

 
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Roti Shah, owner of Roti Indian Bistro, said the loss of parking due to the summer-long Twin Peaks Tunnel closure and construction project will hurt his business, which depends on take-out and to-go orders. “My business is going to die. That’s it,” Shah said. (Photo by Ian Williams/S.F. Examiner)




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