Castro elevator project to break ground in July

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 21, 2023
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A rendering shows the new Castro Muni elevator during the daytime. Illustration: Courtesy SF Public Works<br>
A rendering shows the new Castro Muni elevator during the daytime. Illustration: Courtesy SF Public Works

At long last construction is set to begin on a new four-stop elevator at the Castro Muni station in the city's LGBTQ district. A groundbreaking on the $11.5 million project is slated for early July, with the completion date now expected sometime in 2026.

The "Notice to Proceed" for construction was set for Tuesday, June 20, according to the city's public works department. The general contractor, CLW Builders Inc., has begun posting construction notices around the neighborhood, while the city's transit agency has also begun to send out notices to inform nearby residents and business owners of the pending construction.

"That said, they'll likely perform project site survey first, then install construction fencing, sound barriers and landscape protection before starting work. This will take about 1-2 weeks," noted San Francisco Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon in an emailed reply to the Bay Area Reporter. "No heavy construction to take place before end of Pride Month."

As the Bay Area Reporter had reported in early February, the commission that oversees San Francisco Public Works unanimously approved in January the contract with CLW Builders Inc., which was the lowest bidder to build the elevator. The city agency has overseen the design of the four-stop lift for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates the belowground subway station at the corner of Castro and Market streets.

Public Works officials had hoped to break ground on the glass and steel elevator in March, but a delay in SFMTA finalizing the insurance certificate for the project with BART had slowed the permitting process. The regional transit agency built the station and leases it to the city's Muni system.

Another hiccup came from protests being lodged by the losing bidders for the project. Those also needed to be resolved before the SFMTA could award the contract to CLW Builders Inc.

There had been a possibility of work on the elevator beginning in June, several sources told the B.A.R. But with Pride Month an important time period for businesses in the Castro due to an influx in visitors, neighborhood leaders had impressed upon city officials the importance of not disrupting a major access point to the area until the end of June.

"I am glad that it is happening and I am glad it did not happen during Pride," said gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the Castro at City Hall. "There was a possibility it could, but folks in DPW and I concurred it was not a good idea."

The new elevator had first been proposed in 2016, as the current elevator for the Castro Muni Station is across the street from its main entrance near Pink Triangle Park where 17th Street meets Market Street, which can be hard to access for wheelchair users and others with mobility issues. If out of service, then there is no way to access the station without using stairs or an escalator.

As the B.A.R. has previously reported, the elevator project includes several upgrades to Harvey Milk Plaza, named in honor of the city's first gay supervisor who represented and lived in the Castro. Several of the existing lighting fixtures will be replaced, plus the red paver bricks will be removed to install sparkle grain integral color concrete that matches the paving installed when the sidewalks along Castro Street were widened.

The elevator project will also result in a wider segment of sidewalk fronting Market Street headed toward Collingwood Street so it is usable for people in wheelchairs. New plantings, bench seating, and interpretative signage about Milk will also be installed in the plaza's below-grade area adjacent to the subway concourse level.

"The benefits to accessibility are really important. We have heard about this from folks who would like to be able to have better access to the station, and there is currently no good access on the plaza side," said Mandelman.

City officials had pushed back their initial timeline for the elevator project in order to allow for community discussions to take place on a proposal to completely redo Harvey Milk Plaza. It is a separate project being overseen by the Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza that has also faced delays, vocal opposition, and gone through multiple architects and design concepts.

Initially estimated to cost $10 million, an exact price tag and funding source for the plaza remodel project remains unknown. Its proponents are seeking private donors and other fiscal sources to pay for it, with leaders of the effort recently telling the B.A.R. there could be news on that front later this summer or in early fall.

For more information about the elevator project, visit its website.

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