SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --Traffic jams on San Francisco's busy Castro Street means business losses for some merchants and it's all happening because city construction crews are tearing up the street -- for the second time in four months. A lot of people are asking, "Why?"
It's all part of a huge Castro Street beautification project which will bring new trees, new street furniture, wider sidewalks, a new sewer system, and more. Members of the city's merchant association are excited about it, but some residents and shop owners are wondering what's taking so long. And why do they keep tearing the street apart?
The construction in the heart of Castro Street is massive. Amid the jackhammers are cars inching along the popular corridor which is now coned off into one lane of traffic. "It's not even under construction because Castro used to be a much wider street," Castro Street resident Barbara Dimas told ABC7 News.
But now, with the sidewalks widened, the street is narrower. The sidewalk project started in March. It meant tearing up not only the sidewalk, but the street too. The work continued for about four months. The Public Works Department launched a vigorous outreach campaign to alert people in the area about the work and the possible inconveniences, but the inevitable happened to merchants like Fauzi Azshmali who owns a grocery story on Castro Street. "Yeah, it affected business," he said. "Like 30 to 40 percent down."
Public Works stopped construction and re-paved the street to accommodate the Pride celebrations during the last week of June. "They paved the street and as soon as they paved it, literally three weeks later, they're digging it up," resident Richard Kadel said.
The city is tearing up the street again to put in cast iron water pipes. Kadel, and many others who live on the street, wonder why the work wasn't all done at once to lessen the impact on merchants and save taxpayer money.
"So we had to see how we could do it in the best timeline that would be the least inconvenient for the people who live and work in that important neighborhood," Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon said. That, Gordon explains, meant doing the work in two phases - first widening the sidewalks before Pride week, then the sewer project and the rest of the beautification project from now until October.
It also meant doing all that before the Castro Street Fair, the rainy season, and the holiday moratorium on construction, which starts on Thanksgiving.