Central Subway: North Beach Group Files Suit

The final day of July was a busy one for Muni's legal representatives. Not only did the Municipal Transportation Agency receive a demand letter from a lawyer hired by the North Beach Business Association, it was sued by another North Beach group.

Save North Beach, formed and led by area man Marc Bruno, filed suit Tuesday against the city, Muni, the Board of Supervisors, and Planning Department regarding the proposal to extract tunnel-boring machines for the Central Subway near Washington Square Park.

Along similar lines to the arguments made by attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley in her letter penned on behalf of the North Beach merchants, Bruno claims the notion of an extraction tunnel is merely a cover to begin work on the unfunded and largely unplanned "Phase III" of the Central Subway project prior to tackling myriad environmental requirements.

Bruno is bringing the suit himself, sans legal representation "for now." His brief requests a judge demand Muni to conduct environmental studies prior to beginning work on the extraction tunnel.

The plan to dig 2,000 feet beyond the last planned stop of the subway -- at a minimum estimated cost of $70 million -- and extract the tunnel- boring machines on Columbus between Union and Filbert has been described to area residents as the "least disruptive" option. Other options include disassembling and backing the machines out of the tunnel, or leaving whatever components of the $24 million devices that can't be resold underground.

Muni has not yet responded to a public records request to provide the methodology indicating the North Beach extraction option is the most cost-effective and "least disruptive." Its presentation to North Beach residents can be viewed here.

The move has been ridiculed by Central Subway critics. If Muni is really committed to spending upward of $70 million to recover whatever fraction of the machines' $24 million sticker price it can recoup, then it's guilty of bad math, former Muni engineer Jerry Cauthen told SF Weekly yesterday. And if Muni is attempting to bore a tunnel and create a large cement footprint that will serve as the future site of the as-yet unfunded proposal to extend the Central Subway to North Beach, it's doing so ahead of conducting necessary environmental procedures. "To me," says Cauthen, "this is an extension they are trying to cover by saying it's an extraction location."

Muni had little to say about any of the legal activity that came its way Tuesday. "We have full confidence that this project will move forward," wrote spokesman Paul Rose, "however it would not be appropriate to comment any further on pending litigation."

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