Funding runs dry for alley projects

The money has run out — again — for a long-running plan to turn blighted alleyways in Chinatown and surrounding neighborhoods into pedestrian-oriented pathways.

An 11-year-old proposal to renovate 31 of the neighborhood’s 41 alleys has hit yet another funding snag since work began in 2000, said the Rev. Norman Fong of the Chinatown Community Development Center, which commissioned a study during the mid-1990s to identify which of the neighborhood’s narrow passageways needed a serious sprucing up.

Like all else, the economy is to blame, Fong said.

By early February, a total of 12 alleys that were found to be in need of repairs will have been fixed up at a cost of $3.6 million, according to the Department of Public Works. Work on nine of those has already been completed.

The City originally allocated $2.3 million for the project, but those funds quickly ran out after work began to outfit several alleys with new pavement, lighting, trees and artwork.

The payment plan for the project had been simple: Find funding for one alley, then search for more money from government and other sources to pay for another, Fong said.

Basking in the success of the initial renovations — which helped attract more tourism dollars to the neighborhood — The City in 2007 set aside money to complete repairs on three more alleys.

But the downturn in the economy has stifled additional funding streams for the upgrades. Fong said no more city money has been earmarked, despite a promise from Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The renovations benefit the millions of tourists who visit the neighborhood each year, along with the nearly 20,000 residents who live in Chinatown — the nation’s most densely populated neighborhood outside Manhattan, N.Y. — Fong said.

“While there are currently no identified funds, [Public Works] is working to include this category of improvements into The City’s 10-year capital plan,” department spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.

Public Works recently applied for a federal grant with the Chinatown Community Development Center for the projects, she said.
The projects are supported by local merchants.

Janet Clyde, managing partner of the historic Vesuvio bar in North Beach, said she’s seen an increase in tourism around her business since The City finished work on the neighboring Jack Kerouac Alley in March 2007.

“It was much better than I expected,” she said.

The alley now has more room to host walking tours, art showings and jazz concerts.

“I know that the investment they’ve made in these capital improvements will pay dividends to The City over time,” Clyde said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

New life on block

Of Chinatown’s 41 alleyways, 31 have been deemed in need of repair

Repairs have already been completed on nine alleys:
Commercial Street
Cordelia Street
Hang Ah Alley
Jack Kerouac Alley
John Street
Ross Alley
Spofford Street
Waverly Place (two alleys)

Repairs on three other alleys will be completed by February:

Beckett Street
Cooper Alley
Wentworth Street

Source: Department of Public Works

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