Plans to build a subway station at San Francisco’s Union Square as part of the city’s Central Subway project were approved today by a San Francisco Board of Supervisors committee over the objection of opponents who have filed a lawsuit seeking to halt construction.
The board’s Land Use and Economic Development committee this afternoon unanimously agreed to send the proposal to the full Board of Supervisors as part of the $1.6 billion San Francisco Municipal Railway project linking the city’s South of Market neighborhood to Chinatown.
The vote comes after SaveMuni.com, a group opposing the project, filed a lawsuit last Wednesday arguing that construction on Union Square violated a clause in the city charter that requires voter approval of any structure built and maintained on park property for non-recreational purposes.
Some of the opponents spoke at this afternoon’s committee hearing at City Hall, including Tom Lippe, the attorney representing SaveMuni.com.
Lippe said the clause requiring voter approval for the project is “about as plain as the law gets” but “for some reason has been ignored” by city officials.
However, Supervisor Scott Wiener questioned the group’s argument, saying that it would also then apply to other examples, such as roads that travel through Golden Gate Park and other parkland in the city.
“The argument is just not well taken,” Wiener said, adding that the Central Subway “is something to be desired, and would contribute to the recreational use” of Union Square.
Supervisor Eric Mar added that the opponents’ argument “doesn’t make much sense to me” and said he thought the proposed design of the station will have a minimal impact on Union Square.
“It’s almost like you don’t notice it there,” Mar said.
The full board will have to approve the construction at Union Square by a two-thirds vote, according to the city charter.
The 1.7-mile subway is expected to open to the public in 2019.
It will start above ground near the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets, then enters a subway tunnel on Fourth Street under the Interstate Highway 80 overpass, with stops at Yerba Buena/Moscone, Union Square/Market Street and Chinatown stations.
Local and federal officials announced last week that $942.2 million in funding from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration has been secured for the project.
Updates on the Central Subway can be found at www.centralsubwaysf.com.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News