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No Central Subway Excavation in North Beach

The extension of the Subway tunnels to Washington Square to make a "removal pit" will transform North Beach into something it mustn't be-- and permanently mar its traditional village feeling. With the extension of the Chinatown Subway into the very heart of historic North Beach, the special ambience of this fragile quarter will be greatly diminished.
---Lawrence Ferlinghetti & City Lights Books

Federal lawsuit to stop the Pagoda Option

On November 1, 2013 filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Central Subway Pagoda Option. This project proposes to dig two tunnels into historic North Beach with possibly years of construction disruption to businesses and residents. When this 6-year phase is completed there will be no subway station here.

Please consider supporting this legal action by making a donation.

For more information and a copy of the Complaint see the Legal Action page.

April 14, 2014: TBM causing SF Ratpocalypse?;

It's likely the tunnel boring machine (TBM) digging the Central Subway is the source of the Friday 4/11 news story, Mouse Infestation Shuts Down SF Chinatown Bakery and Walgreens. On Friday 4/11 the TBM was about 60 feet under Stockton St just north of Broadway, under Walgreens and Mee Mee Bakery.

An advantage of TBMs is that they are underground and can't be felt — by humans. But apparently the little furry critters get spooked, see Ratpocalypse in Seattle. If you're walking along Stockton or Columbus during the next few weeks keep an eye out for local wildlife scampering ahead of the underground TBM vibrations. When the TBM reaches the Pagoda site it will be only 20 feet underground — waiting for the southbound bus at Columbus and Union you might be able to feel the underground vibrations.

 TBM location as of 4/10/14 TBM location (circular icon) on SFMTA map (as of 4/10/14, updated every few days).

The cross-section diagram below shows the approximate location of the TBM (Mom Chung) as of Thursday, 4/10. The tunnel is shown by parallel horizontal lines in the purple area.

 TBM north of Broadway, 4/10/14

You can view this drawing at Jan 29 CMB report page 11/60. Also see the TBM progress logs.

April 11, 2014: Pagoda work extended to 2015?; CCC says Fix the MTA!; Rats in broad daylight

Here are a couple of rat photos from around 4pm Thursday afternoon, one at a restaurant door and another at a bus stop (next to guy's foot) ... So pathetic that, as usual, no action will be taken until a child, an elderly person, a pet or anyone, for that matter, is bitten ... the rats just want to be left alone but it's too late. There is no doubt this will only get worse!

 Rat at restaurant door  Rat at bus stop

Have you seen a rat? Call 311 and report it. Want something done? Contact these officials.

(Rats story in the SF Chronicle, video at NBC News, rat story at KTVU news, video of rats from KTVU.)

April 6, 2014: Oh, Rats!; TBMs coming out soon; The Conspiracy Theory

  • R.K. Oytauer is back with "Oh, Rats!"
    Is Washington Square becoming a rat haven?
  • Howard Wong analyzes the recent Muni accounting scandal.
  • Next phase at the Pagoda site: Pulling the TBMs out of the ground.

 500-ton crane  100-ton crane

A new crane will be needed to haul out the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) from the Pagoda extraction shaft. Some TBM parts weigh more than 100 tons each. A 500-ton crane like the one pictured on the left will replace the current 100-ton crane (right) at the Pagoda site for this next phase.

Starting some time in May, it will take about three weeks to extract each TBM. The entire extraction project will likely finish in late June. Many of the TBM parts are oversize and will have to be trucked away late at night. The cutting head, for example, is a huge disk 22 feet in diameter. It will be placed on a flatbed truck and extend 6 feet or so off both sides.

To reduce the impact on the neighborhood, especially for those who live nearby, it is hoped that the parts will be loaded onto the trucks during the day, and then driven away later. But from past experience with construction at the site they may do all the loading from late evening into the early morning insuring that those who live nearby will not get much peace.

  • Alternate next phase: The Conspiracy Theory.

Some observers of the Pagoda extraction, including a few with engineering and construction backgrounds, have suggested that the TBMs might not turn in to the Pagoda extraction site but instead continue drilling subway tunnels north under Columbus Avenue to the Wharf.

There are no plans in place for a tunnel extension and it's not clear how the extra work, something like $100 million worth, could be paid for. In a few weeks we'll know for sure if this actually happens or not.

April 2, 2014: Central Subway hiding millions through faulty accounting; Rats in the Park

March 30, 2014: $173K study for Pagoda station?; 3 a.m. Pagoda work

  • $173K Muni study to determine the feasibility of extending the Central Subway to Fisherman's Wharf.
    Some have commented that this a way for Supervisor Chiu to claim he is fulfilling his promise of a subway extension to Fisherman's Wharf in advance of the June election for State Assembly ...
    ... While others see it as a way of justifying the City purchasing the Pagoda site for a station.
    The study looks like it will focus on a subway solution, however there are other alternatives such as surface transit at a fraction of the cost.
  • Central Subway staffing toubles
    In addition to the continuing problems with financial reporting, and budget and schedule contingencies, it now appears the project is losing key staff members and replacement personnel are under-qualified.

March 15, 2014: Friday, March 21: THD presents Rebels with a Cause

Highly recommended film about preservation of public lands in Marin in the 1960's. The Rebels' lessons apply to all who are trying to preserve their neighborhoods, parks, and open space. See Event details to reserve your ticket now.

March 11, 2014: Speak up about Muni's TEP; "On time and on budget"; SF Location Films

  • Legal action: Discussions with FTA and SFMTA regarding the Pagoda Option are still in progress.
  • Muni's TEP, Friday, March 14, 9am — Learn about and voice your opinion on the SFMTA Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). The TEP proposes many changes to bus lines and other SFMTA services to supposedly save money and provide better service. City Hall Room 400. Update March 10: Further TEP route revisions announced. More >>
    ... before you vote to approve more Muni bonds and approve initiatives to charge higher fines, fees, and taxes to support Muni services, find out where the money is spent now. Find out what percent of the MTA budget covers the actual operations and maintenance costs, and where the bulk of the funds go. Ask the SFMTA, Mayor and supervisors how much SFMTA has spent on TEP plans to reorganize bus routes and cut Muni service. More >>.
  • "On time and on budget," the new mantra from Central Subway brass.
    If the project is on time and on budget perhaps Muni management could release the numbers needed to back this up. According to the federally-hired project manager no reliable schedule or budget data has been available since May 2013.
  • SF Location Films, Fridays, March 14 & 21, 6pm - Mystique of the City: Films Shot in San Francisco

The Mechanics Library CinemaLit Film Series is hosted by film critic Michael Fox with discussion after each film. $10 donation includes great snacks, drinks available. Doors open at 5:30, film at 6:00. Reserve at 415-393-0100.

Mechanics Institute
57 Post Street
San Francisco
(Near Montgomery BART)
 Experiment in Terror
Experiment in Terror
Experiment in Terror (1962), Friday, March 14, 2014 - 6:00pm. Directed by Blake Edwards, starring Lee Remick, Glenn Ford. A bank teller threatened by a sadistic criminal enlists the help of an FBI agent in a classic nail-biter cloaked in S.F. locations.

 Foul Play
Foul Play
Foul Play (1978), Friday, March 21, 2014 - 6:00pm. Directed by Colin Higgins, starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase. In this comic romp by way of Hitchcock, a shy librarian and a bumbling cop fall in love while trying to prevent an assassination. With Dudley Moore, an SF celeb playing the Pope, and lots of SF location footage.

 Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run
Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run
  • Woman on the Run (1950)

This film noir has lots of 1950 SF and North Beach location scenery. It was shown at a No Dig event at the Emerald Tablet on Feb 27. You can watch it here, and click here for filming locations at

 Film Night Poster (Libby Staub) Film Night Poster, artist: Libby Staub

February 21, 2014: No Dig Film Night Thurs 2/27; Legal action update

 Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run
Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run
  • Film Night: Woman on the Run (1950). Join us at The Emerald Tablet, 80 Fresno St (behind The Saloon), Thursday, February 27 at 7. Doors open at 6:30, program 7:00 to 9:00. $5 suggested donation, complimentary snacks, drinks by donation. More information and map.
There will be a brief update on the legal action to protect North Beach historic buildings and parks. Following will be a screening of Woman on the Run, a fine film noir shot in North Beach (77 minutes runtime). Follow Ann Sheridan as she searches for her husband throughout 1950's San Francisco and North Beach, aided by reporter Dennis O'Keefe. Snappy and witty dialog, and scenes of the neighborhood as it was more than 60 years ago.
  • Progress on the Save North Beach Village lawsuit: We're in continued discussions with Muni and the Feds over the Pagoda Option. News on the outcome of discussions within a few weeks. See Legal Action. Please donate to the legal fund so we can continue this action to protect historic North Beach.

January 11, 2014: Legal action update, TBM stuck at Union Square, Subway financial state unknown

Happy 2014. Some recent developments:

  • Progress on the Save North Beach Village lawsuit: We're in discussions with Muni and the Feds over the Pagoda Option. See Legal Action. Please donate to the legal fund so we can continue this action to protect historic North Beach.
  • Work at the Pagoda site is now back to more reasonable hours. Over the holidays work did not stop, even though we repeatedly requested it, and work hours were expanded to a punishing 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday schedule. Once the holidays were over new work hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday though they rarely work outside 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Perhaps the rush is off due to a major tunnel boring machine (TBM) breakdown at Union Square — see below.
  • Major tunnel boring machine (TBM) breakdown at Union Square. The first TBM, Mom Chung, has been out of service for the past three weeks due to damage. Spare parts and technicians had to be flown in to make the repairs. There has been no mention of this by Muni in the press. See the tunneling reports and the Central Subway progress map, last updated Dec 3, 2013.
  • Central Subway finances in trouble? For the past 7 months the Central Subway budget contingency level has been a mystery. The federally-hired project management expert who watches over the Central Subway has noted this since May 2013 when the contingency was $100 million below federally proscribed levels. See Federal PMOC reports.

Many thanks to those who have supported our efforts during the past year. Please consider donating to Save North Beach Village.

December 2, 2013: Press Conferences, Tuesday, Dec. 3: Chinatown and North Beach Hurt Financially

Press briefings have been organized for this Tuesday:

12:30 at the Chinatown construction site, Stockton & Washington
1:30 at the Pagoda construction site, Columbus & Powell

The briefings are regarding the continued Central Subway construction during the holidays. Residents and merchants have been invited to speak to the press. Please attend one or both events.

Followup articles and video

November 21, 2013: Federal lawsuit filed; neighborhood meeting Sunday

On November 1, 2013 filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Central Subway Pagoda Option. This project proposes to dig two tunnels into North Beach with possibly years of construction disruption to businesses and residents. When this 6-year phase is completed there will be no subway station here.

Please join us for a neighborhood meeting this Sunday to learn more about the legal action and how you can support it.

Sunday, November 24, 5:30 - 7
San Francisco Italian Athletic Club
1630 Stockton Street
Light refreshments served

Please consider supporting this legal action by making a donation.

For more information and a copy of the Complaint see the Legal Action page.

Sept 26, 2013: Simple and effective transit is best; Father John's church relic

Simple, effective transit is best

Howard Wong wrote a report on best practices for city transit systems, with examples from around the world showing how simple and inexpensive methods can greatly improve transit. Why doesn't Muni implement more of these?

Father John's relic

The earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed an old Eastern Orthodox Church that once stood at the Pagoda site. Afterwards members of this church moved to the Holy Trinity Cathedral at Green & Van Ness.

During demolition of the Pagoda Theater this summer the foundation of the old church was uncovered. Father John Takahashi of Holy Trinity Cathedral was contacted, and he came to North Beach to talk about the church's history with June Osterberg, who has written several articles about the Palace Theater. Father John and archaeologist Mike Stoyka went into the demolition site to view the ruins, and selected a piece of the old church's concrete foundation to be placed in the garden at the Green & Van Ness church.

More photos

 Father John and archaeologist Mike Stoyka

Father John and archaeologist Mike Stoyka meet at the Pagoda site to view the old church's ruins.

Sept 7, 2013: No NB Dig: Pagoda demolition - last walls come down, dust cloud over Washington Square Park


The photo below shows the dust cloud at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept 7, after a huge concrete slab crashed to the ground. Notice the demolition contractor's worker with the garden hose trying to quell the dust.

Muni announced the working hours for Saturday as 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. As on numerous other occasions when working hours were announced, work started at 7:15 a.m. Numerous complaints were called in by nearby residents and SFPD visited the site to check up. The DPW inspector on site made a few jokes with the cops and all was forgotten. Remember this when the next project at the site begins — how can we get the contractors stick with announced working hours?

 Dust cloud after big concrete wall drops Photo: Keith Breitbach

Here are some videos of the big concrete walls falling.

Note: Even though MH Construction from San Francisco did this complex and risky demolition job with no prior experience (and scared the daylights out of folks on several occasions), their subcontractor Kroeker from Fresno did an outstanding job on the parts of the demolition they were responsible for. Special kudos to Larry who operated the huge orange Jaws excavator with the skill of a heart surgeon.

Sept 3, 2013: No NB Dig: Muni snubs North Beach businesses; Unbuilt SF: Rebels with a Cause

Pagoda demolition follies and disregard of businesses

Muni's demolition contractor, MH Construction, had no prior experience with this type of structure and it shows.  The MH crew inspires disbelief, head shaking, and a fear that they will accidentally demolish all the buildings around the Pagoda.

Businesses next to the Pagoda site have experienced extremely poor treatment from MH Construction and Muni.  Liz Ferro of Bottle Cap Restaurant recently wrote to Muni:

"Everything we were told about how construction would go has
been false.  Extended hours, working on the weekends, dust control,
pest control ... nothing as promised.  It is more than obvious that no
one is looking out for our businesses and that you will sacrifice us
and our employees to do this job.  It's shocking how little you care
for the people in this community ... ."

Other pleas to Muni from business owners to spare them from the unprofessional, disruptive, and dangerous demolition activities .

Do we really want Muni's next contractor in North Beach digging a 50x50 by 42-foot deep extraction shaft for the next six months?  This will include a couple thousand dump truck trips through the neighborhood, streets blocked, cranes and excavators working, and more noise and dust?  This might be acceptable if there were some benefit for North Beach at the end of the messy job, but remember there will be no Central Subway Station here once the dust clears.  Write to these officials and tell them residents deserve all the facts before another construction project begins, and that the Pagoda Option is unnecessary and will break the Central Subway budget.

Keith Breitbach, a videographer who lives behind the Pagoda site, captured the demolition experience from his back porch in this video.

Unbuilt SF: Rebels with a Cause


Be sure to catch a screening of Rebels with a Cause, an award-winning film about residents in the 1960's who saved parts of Marin from rampant real estate development, including the Marin Headlands, Stinson, Bolinas, and more.  It's in town this week and next:

Wednesday, September 4, 5:30 pm San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street  Architecture and the City Festival

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 7 PM, SPUR, 654 Mission Street  SPUR - Unbuilt SF: The View From Futures Past

Hopefully, a future edition of Unbuilt SF will include the Pagoda Option and 8 Washington.


Continued here.

July 28: YABCA 2; mystery of the missing Pagoda demolition permit

If you've been by the Pagoda site you've seen workmen and trucks there, and the plywood with graffiti has been taken down. But according to City inspectors no demolition has been done.

Of course, we keep seeing the usual YABCA (Yet Another Bogus Construction Announcement), and even though there are workers at the site there is no demolition permit posted. Normally, no permit, no work can be done. When the workmen are asked about the permit they point to a small sign attached to the construction fence:

 Not a demolition permit. Not a demolition permit.

Where is the Pagoda demolition permit? No one seems to know and no one in the City is tellin'. Most demolition permits are issued by the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and you can track them at their online site (as of this writing, July 28, there is nothing for the Pagoda since February). Rumor has it Muni writes their own permits independent of DBI - hard to believe, even the Chinatown station at 947 Stockton has full DBI permits. We're trying to track it down.

If you see workmen at the Pagoda site tearing down the building and they can't produce a permit, call 558-6570 and file a complaint for "work being done without a permit."

On the lighter side:

June Osterberg wrote two articles about the historic theater on Washington Square, including the time The Cockettes made it their home.

Paul Page, the "Dave Barry" of No Dig, wrote a song, Sittin' in a hole by the Transbay (with help from Otis Redding), about recent cost overruns. Also see his comments on CW Nevius' July 16 Chronicle blog.

Recent updates

June 28: Mysterious banner; Pagoda demolition vs Philly disaster


There is no Muni Board meeting on Tuesday, July 2.  Mark your calendar for Tuesday, July 16.

Several people have asked who put up and took down the banner on the Pagoda Theater.  Some North Beach folks put it up Tuesday morning, and it was taken down sometime between 4 pm and 6 pm the same day.  We don't know who took it down, most likely Muni.  If you saw who did it please get in touch.  Still, the message on the banner is a very likely scenario so please continue to write to City officials as described below.


Farewell Will Reisman

Will has covered transportation for the San Francisco Examiner for the past several years, including Central Subway and Pagoda Option issues, and we will miss his well-written and informative articles.

 Muni Construction Yard banner on Pagoda Theater
Muni Construction Yard banner on Pagoda Theater

Mysterious Pagoda banner

Thanks to all who wrote about the banner to City officials.  Several who wrote reported back that City officials did not directly respond to the message.  Please continue to write to them and demand a satisfactory answer about plans for the Pagoda site - will the site be used for the duration of the Central Subway project as a northern access for materials going in or out?  Please forward all responses you receive.

Another view

On Tuesday morning a banner showed up on the Pagoda Theater, "Muni Construction Yard 2013 to 2018."  The 6-year span was a surprise to many observers.  The banner was torn down early Tuesday evening.

For more about the banner message, and why Muni will likely occupy the site for Central Subway construction for the next 6 years or more, see this explanation.

And we still don't get a Central Subway station in the foreseeable future, just lots of dust, trucks, and merchants hurt.

Pagoda demolition vs Philly disaster

Howard Wong recently noted parallels between the early-June building demolition disaster in Philadelphia and the proposed Pagoda demolition. He notes that a tragedy like this can occur if demolition is rushed and engineering isn't properly done.

 Philly demolition dysaster

Philly: White building at left was demolished, crushing the smaller yellow building.

 Pagoda and Pellegrini buildings

North Beach: Can the white building (Pagoda Theater) be safely demolished next
to the smaller yellow building (Piazza Pellegrini)?

For Howard's analysis of the Pagoda demolition and other problems see his complaint.

What you can do


Write to those responsible and ask them for a straight answer on how the Pagoda site will be used and for how long.  Please forward all responses you receive.

Tell Muni you won't settle for the poor planning and deceptive explanations of the Pagoda Option.  Next Muni Board meeting is Tuesday, July 16, 1 p.m.



Recent updates

Breaking News Muni's huge service problems   Joe Eskenazi   C C Curmudgeon


Future of Washington Square and North Beach
due to proposed Central Subway construction
Learn about impacts of major digging at Washington Square on your business, your home, your life.
  • Central Subway project plans huge hole by Washington Square
  • Engineers question viability of such excavation
  • Long-term impacts on North Beach
  • Costs to taxpayers
What is the Pagoda Option and why stop it?
What you can do
Circulator bus
Legal action
Demolition Blog
The Press and Publicity
Letters from supporters
Recent events
Videos & Graphics
Constant Cranky Curmudgeon
Howard Wong's reports
R. K. Oytauer Blog
Muni communications
Cost overruns
Pagoda Site Problems
SF Neighborhood Battles
Concerned residents
NB Bix
Donate to No North Beach Dig
 Crane at Union Square
Impact of subway construction on North Beach will be similar to
Union Square disruption (photo credit:

Web site updated April 15, 2014;