By Jonathan Farrell
Businesses and residents along Taraval Street have expressed concerns over the renovation work known as The Taraval Project currently underway along the busy commercial and residential corridor, .
Albert Chow, president of People of Parkside/Sunset (POPS), a business and community organization, voiced his frustration with some aspects of the project.
“I don’t see the 20-minute parking areas we had previously discussed at a site meeting,” Chow said. “The streets are dirty. Where is the clean up?”
With much of the west end of Taraval street ripped up for L-Taraval streetcar track replacement and other infrastructure improvements, there is a lot of frustration in the community.
Ironically, what is being constructed as a pedestrian island designed to help Muni riders and the disabled gain access to transportation is actually causing obstacles.
Pat Troubetzkoy is a life-long resident on Taraval.
“There are now six-inch curbs.” Troubetzkoy said. “I can’t get in an out of my driveway because of these curbs,”
Troubetzkoy said he is very frustrated by the lack of clear communication,
“No one contacted me or put up a sign to inform me and other residents that this was going to happen,” he said. “The work started and the six-inch curbs just appeared.”
Similar to Chow, he too has had difficulty communicating with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).
“They just pass it along,” Troubetzkoy said. “I was referred to a project foreman, and when I told him about it, he just looked at me as if I was crazy. I pointed out that clearly it is difficult for residents to get in and out of their driveways and that car traffic passing along that portion of Taraval must stop and wait or swerve to avoid the six inch curb.”
Erica Kato is a spokesperson for SFMTA.
“The project team, along with the contractor, met POPS President Albert Chow about two weeks ago on site to discuss ways to accommodate his requests,” Kato said. “Communications with him are ongoing.”
The most recent meeting was on Feb. 10.
“The meeting on site was to discuss ways to accommodate Mr. Chow’s requests,” Kato said. “Several things have happened lately to address his concerns.”
She said many steps are being taken to respond to the community’s concerns:
“The contractor has removed the message board at northeast corner of 41st Avenue to allow more street parking,” Kato explained. “They will be hiring a sweeper to sweep the trackway on Taraval after the excavation is complete.
“‘Open for Business’ signage has been developed. Mr. Chow has vetted it before it went to production. It will be distributed soo,” she said..
Karo said the agency is looking for ways to accommodate the neighbors who had a hard time maneuvering in and out of their driveways in front of the new boarding island.
“The project team evaluated the conditions at 40th and 41st avenues and concluded that it would be unsafe to allow pedestrians to cross an active construction site,” she said. “We are trying to safely accelerate the schedule and open the intersections as soon as possible. We are working hard to minimize the inconvenience for the residents along Taraval, while making the critical infrastructure improvements.”
While Chow said he was pleased to see that pedestrian bridges were placed at 40th and 41st avenues as a result of those meetings, “some things are done and others are ignored.”
Chow said part of the communication disconnect regarding the $90 million dollar project is that there are so many project managers.
“There have been at least four,” Chow said. “I have learned that when there’s no leadership in charge, talking and meeting with officials is not helpful.”
He noted the current project manager is Jay Lu, who is a 20-year veteran at SFMTA. Chow said he sees this as a good sign.
“Jay seems to be the one to get things done, and he makes them happen,” he said.
Chow and others mentioned that, for all its levels of bureaucracy, officials at SFMTA are not elected. They are appointed. Chow had been contemplating approaching the City Attorney’s Office with a formal complaint. Yet, as City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s press secretary John Coté told the Sunset Beacon, “The SFMTA, like every city department, is a client of ours.”
As disheartening as that might sound, Chow said he is determined to make sure the community is heard, regardless of the levels of bureaucracy.
The construction project is divided into two parts. Segment A covers Taraval Street from Sunset Boulevard going west. Segment B heads east from Sunset Boulevard to West Partal.
“It is important to keep an eye on this,” he said. “Because if mistakes are made in the segments that have begun out in the outer avenues, there will no doubt be more problems as this project makes its way up Taraval to West Portal Station.”
“We are in the last stretch of Segment A.” Kato said. “The plan is to pave the street in mid-March, then wrap up the construction, (for that portion). The contract for Segment B will be advertised in March or April,” she said.
For project updates, go to www.sfmta.com.