City celebrates completion of street improvements to Broadway, Spofford Alley

Chinatown celebrated the completion of two major streetscape projects in the district Monday.

However some business owners say it could take some time to recover from the effects of construction.

At an event marked by lion dancers and speeches, city officials marked the completion of the last of four phases of improvements to the Chinatown-Northbeach corridor, which runs from Columbus Avenue to the Broadway Tunnel. The projects, managed by San Francisco Public Works, added a number of pedestrian safety measures and street beautification improvements along Broadway and Spofford Alley.

Broadway was reconfigured to calm traffic and received curbside bus bulbs, pedestrian-scale lighting and new benches, among other improvements.

A man sits along a new bench in Spofford Alley in Chinatown, a part of the Chinatown Living Alley Project on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Spofford Alley, a one block thoroughfare running between Clay and Washington streets, received raised crosswalks at both ends, pedestrian safety posts and more lights.

During the two-year construction period along Broadway, however, Chinatown’s business suffered.

Businesses along Stockton Street affected by Central Subway construction received $450,00 in aid. But businesses on Broadway affected by the Broadway Chinatown Streetscape Project did not, nor will they, according to Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

SEE RELATED: SF issues first funds to Chinatown businesses hurt by delayed Central Subway construction

“Historically…the city of San Francisco has not compensated local businesses for disruption from public works projects,” Peskin said. “The only exception to that has been the most impacted people around the Chinatown subway station.”

Two young children check out a new rain garden along Spofford Alley in Chinatown, part of the Chinatown Living Alley Project on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

With that decision, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency created a set of critera to determine what constitues major disruption and when the city needs to step in, financially or otherwise.

“When the city is trying to improve and it’s running you out of business, I think we owe you something,” Peskin said.

According to Chinese Chamber of Commerce President Eddie Au, foot traffic along the Broadway corridor fell by about 25 percent during construction on the streetscape project and with it, revenue.

For Sam Yu, owner of Yuet Lee Seafood Restaurant, the last two years of construction have been difficult. His business, which lies at the intersection of Broadway and Stockton Street, did not receive financial compensation from the city, unlike his neighbors.

“It’s been terrible. My business went down by 40 percent,” Yu said. In addition to the reduced foot traffic, Yu said some of the improvements themselves may have unintended consequences.

People sit on a new cloud bench at Broadway and Stockton Street, part of the Broadway Chinatown Streetscape Project on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

“After they put in the benches 2 weeks ago, all the homeless stay there. It’s dirty,” he said. Yu is worried that the trash-filled gutters endemic to The City’s financial district may soon creep into Chinatown.

Generally, however, Yu is happy with the changes.

For now, Chinatown’s streets have more lights, more trees, new crosswalks and bus shelters. The Bobcats are gone and pedestrians crowd widened sidewalks — some using the new space to play the accordion for any passerby willing to listen. No tips were accepted.

“It has required many hours of neighborhood input, dogged attention to construction mitigation and serious city investment but I think the results speak for themselves: It’s all been worth it,” Peskin said.

People sit on a new colorful bench at Broadway and Powell Street, part of the Broadway Chinatown Streetscape Project on Monday, July 30, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
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