by Thomas K. Pendergast
The theme music for living on 25th Avenue in the Richmond
District could have been sung by Joe Turner or Bill Haley, because
lately there has been a whole lot of shaking, rattling and rolling going on.
A project to replace the main sewer line under 25th Avenue
started out simple enough, with construction only supposed to be
occurring on two blocks at a time. The discovery that all of
the sewer pipes intersecting with that main line also badly needed
replacement, however, was just the first of a series of unpleasant
surprises that turned the project upside down.
Neighbors went on a seven month rollercoaster ride of rumbling
trucks, racing road warriors and rocky roads that only
now seems to be coming to an end.
“They have to use a big bulldozer, front-end loader (to break
up the asphalt and cement) and in your house dust is starting to
come off shelves. That really rattled a lot of people,” said Philip
Williams, who lives on 25th
Avenue. He said the temporary blacktop used during construction was
very rough and bumpy. “So, what you had was cars
coming over and hitting this bumpy blacktop construction
site, and our houses would start shaking even more than they did
before,” he said.
Williams claims the shaking has caused him to have to replace
some water pipes in his house. “I never had plumbing prob-
lems until this December. A day before Christmas, my upstairs
sink broke. The pipe in the wall broke, cracked,” he said. “So, I
had to fix that. Evidently the pipe had been leaking for a
while and so it created problems in the walls. I had to take out the
whole wall and redo it. “When I was just about finished
with that, the flat downstairs … that pipe broke, the one
going into the wall. I’ve lived in this building since 1983, and
never had a problem, but now all of a sudden when the construction
was going on in front of my house both pipes broke,” Williams said.
He listed a few more complaints – from the dust and the noise, and cement trucks
lining up all along the street, slowing down traffic, to container trucks
rumbling down the street at 4 a.m. to get debris containers in
place before construction crews arrived. He says he has gotten so
used to the sound of trucks outside his window that he can tell
what kind of truck it is just from the sound it makes rolling down
Liz Tarchi has lived on 25th Avenue for more than 30 years.
“I think the workers are trying to be respectful. It has been
disruptive. Some of our neighbors said they got notice. I don’t
remember getting a specific notice other than seeing signs stating
that there would be some construction,” Tarchi said. “And
then it seems like everything started going crazy. It’s been
very, very noisy. I’m sympathetic to the fact that the work needs
to be done, but I don’t feel there was ample notice and it appears
that it wasn’t until we started addressing concerns, i.e., complaining,
that the second phase has suddenly begun again. There
was this lapse of time where we’re like, ‘what’s happening?’ Nothing’s happening.”
She also noticed the vibrations moved objects in an unusual
way, more akin to a poltergeist than a construction project.
“I’d come home and there were objects, not only in the
front of our house but in the sun room, in the rear, which had
moved. … We didn’t have objects fall, I won’t exaggerate, but
they were literally moving on their bookshelves.”
Grace Moore, a public information officer for the SF
Department of Public Works (DPW), said she understands and
is sympathetic to residents’ frustrations, but the project was perhaps
a little cursed from the start. Not only did they have to replace
far more sewer lines than expected, but the recent stormy
weather also delayed the construction schedule. Plus, workers
discovered that Comcast laid out its cable lines more shallow in
the ground than expected, causing city workers to slow down so
they wouldn’t damage any of Comcast’s infrastructure.
“Because of the additional work that came up and because
of the Comcast utility conflict, they had to work around them,”
Moore said. “Comcast came out … they almost had to work by
hand digging out around their facilities. That took a long time.”
Moore said DPW is now planning to have everything finished
by the end of March. But Marco Thiele, who also
lives on 25th Avenue, said the situation has motivated him to
form a neighborhood group to get changes to the traffic flow
that he thinks have long been needed.
“The real issue with the construction was that it was done in
two parts and they didn’t seem to be coordinated. So, they did the
sewage but they didn’t repave right away … that really made
the problem,” Thiele said. “The debris, and really the vibrations
that you get through trucks, Muni and cars driving over this
really rough pavement; we just felt it in the house.
“The uneven pavement combined with really heavy traffic
made the life quality terrible for basically six months. And the
house was shaking. In fact, we think we have structural damage,”
he said. “We can’t go on like this. … Obviously, the construction
will be done at some point but the issues with excessive
traffic and issues with safety on 25th will remain,” he said.
Thiele is organizing a community meeting for April 3, at
750 25th Ave., starting at 6 p.m., to “set a vision of what they
would like 25th Avenue to look like in the future” and what nearterm
traffic-calming goals and improved street lighting can be attained.