All photos: Tatiana Sanchez for the Appeal

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees Muni, held three meetings during the first weeks of August to discuss the Islais Creek Motor Coach Facility Construction Project. I walked into the last of these meetings yesterday, not expecting to see a huge crowd, but a fair amount of residents with questions regarding the controversial plan. But just three individuals (including myself) attended the meeting, and Peter Gabancho, MTA Project Manager, says that a total of only 7 community members attended the first and second.

The project, which will be located at 1301 Cesar Chavez Street along the Islais Creek, will replace the Kirkland Motor Coach Division, which after 50 years, the MTA says has become outdated and too small to adequately meet the SFMTA’s needs.

Gabancho outlined the project’s two phases:

Phase One consists of preparing and cleaning out the current site through demolition, excavation, dewatering, removal of damaged soil, irrigation and landscaping, and other methods. It also includes the construction of a parking lot for new hybrid motor coaches, a fuel/wash building to maintain these vehicles, and construction of an annex building with offices, restrooms, lockers, and a systems and electrical room. Lastly, this phase also includes the construction of Shoreline Park, as well as the installation of public art. This phase is estimated to cost around $42.5 million.

Phase Two consists of constructing a future maintenance and operations building. This phase of the project faces issues with funding availability, and many of the elements of this phase are still in the air. Because of lack of funds, the cost of this phase is uncertain, but is estimated to all between $25-30 million.

It is estimated that 160 employees will be working at the facility. SFMTA is going through local workforce training program City Build to hire as many local employees as possible, they say.

The SFMTA says they’re fully aware that the construction of the Islais Creek Motor Facility will be a central part of the neighborhood. Because of this, they say they are committed to executing a “clean construction,” using state-of-the-art cleaning practices, while at the same time eliminating environmental harm. They also say that noise will be kept under control, along with dirt and dust that may gather at the construction site.

Few community members were there, it seems, to challenge any of these claims: in a city where citizens are never afraid to share their public opinion, does lack of attendance at the three meetings mean neighbors are not interested in this project, or rather, have no opposition to it?

In a follow-up conversation with the Appeal, Gabancho made it clear that the meeting was well publicized: a mailer was sent out to all residents in a three-block radius from the construction site, a quarter-page ad was placed in the pages of the San Francisco Bayview newspaper, and letters on the project and meeting dates was sent to Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, to the Bayview Hunters Point Project Area Committee, to the Our Children’s Earth environmental advocacy group, and to the Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Gabancho says that in a previous meeting, a single resident concerned about environmental justice attended the meeting with a checklist of things the SFMTA should be doing to conserve the environment during this construction. Gabancho says the SFMTA met every item on the checklist.

In fact, Gabancho says part of the project involves cleaning up the shoreline along the Islais Creek and restoring its wetland area to allow colonization for native plants and animals.

Gabancho also noted that since the area is largely commercial/industrial, there are fewer residents who might have concerns, in the first place. “I did have one business owner, who couldn’t come to any meetings, call. I’m going to go out to him to go over the presentation” Gabancho said.

Perhaps residents have no questions regarding this construction, or simply don’t care. Perhaps San Francisco residents could care less about a construction project in the Bayview, or lack interest in this large construction project because it’s in a low-income district. Or, perhaps they are confident that this project will put the SFMTA in the right direction and will bring many positive things to the neighborhood.

In Gabancho’s experience, he says, meetings about changes in Muni service — issues that people feel would impact their daily lives — typically have a greater turnout than others. “If they were going to build a rail line in front of your house, you’d probably go to the meeting, but if the MTA was going to build in a vacant lot two blocks from your house, you might not be as inclined to interrupt your life to go.”

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