Flyer Proclaiming North Beach Station “Misleading,” Subway Opponent Says

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In addition to the predictable street food and drunken antics, revelers at the North Beach Festival this year were in for a surprise: an extra stop on the contentious Central Subway, all North Beach’s own.

Flyers declaring “The Central Subway is Going to Extend to Washington Square!” were handed out to visitors to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s booth, according to Jon Golinger, president of the Telegraph Hill Dwellers and a staunch opponent of the subway.

The flyers included a map of a Central Subway with a Washington Square stop at the end of the 1.8-mile, $1.6 billion project.

The problem is, of course, that there are no plans to extend the Central Subway to Washington Square.

Transit officials were using the flyers as a “misleading” way to win support for the subway among North Beach residents and merchants, many of whom are upset over plans to temporarily close a small part of Columbus Avenue during construction, Golinger said.

“For two years, they want to put a tourniquet on Columbus Avenue,” Golinger said. “And now they’re spreading propaganda to drum up support for it.”

As per the current plans awaiting federal funding, the last stop on the subway is on Stockton Street in Chinatown. The subway does go to North Beach, in a sense, but not with passengers: the drilling equipment is scheduled to exit the ground at Columbus Avenue and Union Street — a contentious issue in the traffic-heavy tourist neighborhood — and transit officials have said that extra stations are a possibility in the future, but there’s no Washington Square station planned.

The flyers reflected that fact. Below the attention-grabbing headline and above the map was the meat of the message: “We Need a Washington Square Station… please support us in our efforts to build the Washington Square subway station.”

The “us” is urban planning think-tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, or SPUR, which is advocating for a North Beach extension to the subway. SPUR printed the flyers, its transportation chairperson said Tuesday, and disagreed with Golinger’s characterization that they were “misleading.”

The flyer “very clearly and honestly expresses the opinion that the Central Subway should include a station at Washington Square,” said attorney Stephen Taber, who is in charge of SPUR’s work on subway-related issues. “SPUR has long taken the position that the Central Subway should extend beyond Chinatown in order for it to most effectively serve the transportation needs of the city… The flyer was produced by SPUR in order to publicize this idea and gain support for it.”

The SFMTA invited SPUR to share space at the transit agency’s booth at the North Beach Festival, which is where SPUR distributed the flyers, Taber said. SPUR hopes to convince the SFMTA to extend the subway another four-tenths of a mile with a study, funded by the nonprofit and conducted with help from SFMTA transit experts. Planning sessions on the study will be in the fall, with release of the study by the wintertime, Taber said.

The flyer and the booth had a warm reception. “We had more than 150 people express support for the extension and only 4 who had negative comments,” Taber said.

Muni officials as well as SPUR volunteers handed out the flyer to festival-goers. John Funghi, the Central Subway’s project manager, handed Golinger his copy, Golinger said.

A spokesman for the SFMTA did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago, Muni officials oversaw a “raucous” meeting with North Beach residents, who were surprised and angry to hear that the subway boring machine would be exiting the ground in their neighborhood. That fact had been available for public knowledge in public documents, but nonetheless Muni officials were criticized by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu for springing the news on the neighborhood in an “unacceptable” fashion.

Golinger has been mentioned as a possible challenger to Chiu, a subway supporter who represents the area. Golinger circulated a petition Monday in an attempt to force Chiu to introduce an emergency resolution at the Board to halt subway construction.

That may not be “legally feasible,” Chiu wrote in a letter to SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin. In any case, the neighborhood sentiment is clear, Golinger said.

“We want to hit the pause button on the tearing up of North Beach,” he said.

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  • Greg Dewar

    This has been one of the biggest myths propagated about the Central Subway for many years and I’m disappointed to see SPUR engage in a debate like this, since I really LIKE SPUR and many of their projects.

    There is not one thin federal or state dime available for such an extension (or the mytical extension past Washington Square to Elsewhere). None, Nowhere, and NEVER. SF is really stretching its dollars and its pull with the feds just to build the abbreviated billion dollar/mile subway as is, and after this is done the feds aren’t likely to be ponying up more for a project that does not exist.

    Plus, let’s be real. Does ANYONE think that the Catholic Church will allow tunnel boring equipment to bore under their historic church? Heck no.

    This is similar to shenanigans Muni pulled to kill the cable cars with misleading ballot measures to “save” the cable cars – only to tear down money-making cable car lines like….The Washington-Jackson line.

  • Greg Dewar

    This has been one of the biggest myths propagated about the Central Subway for many years and I’m disappointed to see SPUR engage in a debate like this, since I really LIKE SPUR and many of their projects.

    There is not one thin federal or state dime available for such an extension (or the mytical extension past Washington Square to Elsewhere). None, Nowhere, and NEVER. SF is really stretching its dollars and its pull with the feds just to build the abbreviated billion dollar/mile subway as is, and after this is done the feds aren’t likely to be ponying up more for a project that does not exist.

    Plus, let’s be real. Does ANYONE think that the Catholic Church will allow tunnel boring equipment to bore under their historic church? Heck no.

    This is similar to shenanigans Muni pulled to kill the cable cars with misleading ballot measures to “save” the cable cars – only to tear down money-making cable car lines like….The Washington-Jackson line.