Supes OK Pagoda option for Central Subway


The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency received a key approval Tuesday to extract two tunnel-boring machines at the abandoned Pagoda Palace theater in North Beach.

The machines will be used to create the tunnel for the transit agency’s $1.6 billion Central Subway.

A special use district ordinance was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board Supervisors to allow the SFMTA to use the theater to take out the machines.

The agreement would also allow owner Joel Campos to continue his future plans for the theater once the transit agency’s work is completed.

Earlier this month, Campos and the SFMTA agreed on a two-year lease term, which includes rent, out-of-pocket costs and any costs related to construction delays to Campos.

The total cost to the SFMTA including the lease terms, demolition of the theater and extracting the machines will be $9.15 million.

The SFMTA changed its original plan — digging up the boring machines in the middle of Columbus Avenue — after merchants and residents said the construction would be too disruptive to the neighborhood.

Supervisor David Chiu, who represents the North Beach neighborhood, explained to SFBay his support of the new alternative:

“This Pagoda Palace theater option … really solves a lot of problems for the community. Rather than the disruption that would have been created by the original plan, we’re going to have much less of a disruption.”

Construction may be minimized for most North Beach merchants, but Dario Hadjian, owner of Piazza Pellegrini — adjacent to the Pagoda — told SFBay he still has concerns over his business during the construction:

“This project will hurt us immensely. I’m not sure if I am going to be able to stay in business after two years or three years.”

Chiu said his office would work with adjacent property owners to minimize the construction impact.

Demolition of theater is set for April, said John Funghi, program director of the Central Subway Project. Before demolition can begin, the transit agency is awaiting approval from the Federal Transit Administration on the relocation plan.

San Francisco supervisors will vote a second time next week to finalize the ordinance.

The Central Subway, an extension of Muni’s T-Third Street light-rail line from South of Market to Chinatown, is expected open to Muni riders in 2019.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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