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Letter: TBM Extraction Update 1/25/13

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Dear Neighbor:
For the past two months, SFMTA staff and multiple city agencies have been working to relocate the retrieval site of the Central Subway's tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to the Pagoda Palace, a building that has been vacant for nearly 20 years and is considered a nuisance by many in the North Beach community. If we are successful in our efforts, the TBMs will not be removed on Columbus Avenue between Union and Filbert streets as currently planned. Thank you for your participation in this process – community feedback has been instrumental in driving these efforts, and we have worked quickly and diligently to be responsive to your concerns.  I would also like to thank Supervisor David Chiu for his continued leadership.
I am happy to report that we continue to make progress with the Pagoda Palace plan. The effort to change the retrieval site has involved a significant amount of work on a very tight timeline. With the strong support of Supervisor Chiu and the Mayor’s office, we have worked closely with several city agencies, including the Planning Department, the City Attorney’s office and the Department of Building Inspection, to try to make the Pagoda Palace option a reality.
At the SFMTA Board of Directors’ meeting on Tuesday, February 5, I will provide an update on our progress as part of my Director’s Report. (Please note that the meeting will begin at 3 p.m. and will be held in City Hall, Room 400. The meeting agenda can be viewed online here.)
We still have a number of crucial steps to complete, including finalizing the lease with the property owner and obtaining the approval of a Planning Code change. Because the negotiations with the property owner are ongoing, it is unlikely that the Board will take action on the Pagoda Palace option on February 5. However, I do plan to update the Board on the status of the talks in closed session, and I assure you we are working with all due haste and diligence to finalize the terms of the lease agreement as soon as we can. We will let the community know when we have reached a resolution.
The Planning Code change involves the creation of a Special Use District (SUD) at the Pagoda Palace site only. The SUD would allow the owner's development project, initially approved in 2009, to move forward after the demolition of the building and the extraction of the TBMs.
The Planning Commission will consider the Special Use District (SUD) ordinance on Thursday, February 7, at its noon meeting in Room 400, City Hall. You can find the staff report for that item included in the Planning Commission agenda.
The Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee is slated to consider the SUD ordinance at its 1:30 p.m. meeting on Monday, February 11, in Room 263 of City Hall. That agenda will be available here on Friday, February 8.
We welcome and encourage public comment at all of these meetings.
In addition to the lease and the SUD, an addendum to the Central Subway SEIS/SEIR is being prepared.
The timeline to complete these changes remains tight, but we are making every effort to bring them to fruition.
I thank you again for your participation as we work to respond to your concerns about the current retrieval site. We look forward to a continued partnership with the community throughout this process.
Ed Reiskin
SFMTA Director of Transportation