Defying its recent history of rejecting public transportation projects, Marina neighbors are saying “maybe” to a potential Central Subway extension on their turf.
The $1.6 billion Central Subway to Chinatown is scheduled to open in late 2019, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is already mulling a westward extension. That would involve passing through the Marina, possibly to the Presidio, and extensive community collaboration planned for the next year could help make it a reality.
If the past few years are any indication, the proposal seems doomed from the start. Residents and community groups moved against Ford GoBikes at Bay and Fillmore streets until Supervisor Catherine Stefani blocked them in July, the SFMTA backed away from red transit-only lanes on Chestnut Street after community backlash in 2016, and Marina Boulevard residents opposed an extension of the F-Market streetcar.
But the Examiner reported that at the first SFMTA community meeting in December, held at Marina Middle School, planners were largely met with enthusiasm. Some referenced high traffic on Marina Boulevard and declining demand for parking from new tenants.
“The first reaction to things like that in the Marina is usually ‘no,’ ” says Jason Pellegrini, president of the Marina Community Association. “At the December meeting, though, they felt heard. That’s a first of hopefully many meetings.”
So what is it about this Central Subway project that elicits a warmer reaction? Pellegrini noted that plans for underground service are more appealing, at least in the early stages (and when compared to past projects). More anecdotally, he says he’s also noticed a slow but steady trend of more Marina residents hearing out public transportation plans.
There are four initial route options. Each involves a cumbersome triangle of stations, starting with a North Beach stop on Columbus Avenue near Washington Square up to the Joseph Conrad Mini Park at Beach Street. They would then turn sharply east toward Powell Street and south toward Washington Square again.
From there, the plans diverge. One option from the mini park would head under Fort Mason and through Marina Boulevard until reaching the northeast corner of the Presidio. Two proposed routes along Lombard Street would depart from either Joseph Conrad Mini Park or the North Beach station toward Van Ness Avenue.
The last option would take off from the North Beach station along Union Street, just three blocks down from the latter, before curving northward into the Presidio. A 2015 feasibility study estimated the extension from the anticipated Chinatown station toward Fisherman’s Wharf could cost $367 million to $1.4 billion in 2014 dollars.
But, Pellegrini warns, appearing to serve tourists via a Marina Boulevard line would upset residents. He suggests having the “subway” run above ground along the commercial corridor of Chestnut Street but remain underground in residential areas. SFMTA planners must also think about how to serve the Marina’s aging population.
“I think a combination of underground and above-ground is going to push it forward,” Pellegrini says, adding, “as long as it’s done smartly, with community input.”
Another phase of outreach is expected in the spring, SFMTA spokesperson Erica Kato says.
An alternatives study with preliminary cost estimates, analysis, and drawings would follow before presenting the project once again.
If the project continues to have meetings like the one in December, Muni would have another line years from now to serve thousands more residents and reduce their dependence on driving. Pellegrini likes to remind people — especially any neighbors who drive to a destination five blocks away — that his grandmother never owned a car while living in the Marina most of her life.
“Driving is not always going to be the answer,” he says.
Read more from SF Weekly’s Marina issue:
The Marina: The Neighborhood Everyone Loves to Hate
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Have a Cow, Man, at Marlowe’s Newest Spinoff
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Fort Mason Is Really Two Institutions in One
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Yacht Rocks: The Unsung History of the Marina District Lighthouse
A stone landmark that doesn’t get the respect it deserves.
What’s Happening With That Giant Building Behind the Palace of Fine Arts?
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